Faith & Parenthood

 

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Megan

Interview... Megan Landreth-Smith

Hi Megan, thanks for joining me!  Please could you introduce yourself and your role at the NPI? 

Hello! Yes I live in the West Sussex countryside with my family. My husband Joseph and my two kids: Moses who is 18 months and Heppy who has just turned 4! I joined the NPI almost two years ago now and am the social media lead! 

When did you become a Christian?            
 
I was bought up in church, but it wasn’t til 18 that I had my first true encounter with God that really marked and changed me. I was on a gap year in Kenya and I realised on arriving and being alone and in a new environment that I was insecure, uncertain and had no idea who I was. I called my parents asking to get me on a return flight immediately and I remember my Mum saying ‘talk to God, it will be okay’. I remember thinking how many times I had heard that and I thought it was so empty! What could God really do? Well…that night however with nothing else to lean on and feeling completely alone, on the bottom bunk in the tea fields of Limuru in a pitch-black room, I said ‘God if you’re real, you have to do something!’. To my surprise, I heard the audible voice of God say my name. He just said ‘Megan’. I sat bolt upright in bed in complete shock as there was no one else in the house I was staying in. I could go on and on in the story, but the tone of His voice in the way He said my name was all I needed to hear. I had grown up believing God was cross with me, wagging his finger from a distance with a frown on His face.  I realised He was full of love, kind, and gentle and had been waiting for me to come back to Him. Over the next few months and years, I saw my life completely 180! I am very thankful!
 
What does your faith look like in your day to day as a Mum?  Have any parts of your faith become more significant since being a Mum?
 
Wow! Before having kids my time with Jesus looked like hours of soaking in a room with worship music on, a hot cup of tea and a locked door. 
There is definitely a lot less of that but I do believe it has evolved and deepened in ways I may not even recognise right now. 
My faith may not be as wild in expression as it had once been - I may not be travelling the lengths of the world rescuing girls from brothels like I once was, but God made it really clear to me one night when Heppy was a newborn and I was crying in a pit of sleeplessness and a healing body postpartum and asking Him ‘how on earth will I ever love the orphan again or be a missionary when I’m struggling here?’ And he clearly said to me ‘are you saying Heppy is not enough?’  
I’ve found it’s easy for us to determine what is pleasing to Him. To say he valued my time abroad more than my time here as a mother, however mundane that sometimes may seem is not true. My kids are enough, and I don’t want to miss that. And it’s my job to bring Jesus here to our home, to invite him into everything and watch them flourish.  
I would highly recommend the book ‘Domestic Monastery’- a very short and digestible book.  it made me realise that truly each and every moment with my kids is an invitation to knowing him. And it is one of the greatest places to learn the attributes of Jesus, patience, kindness, and gentleness.  
So my faith has grow I believing that He delights in us. And that family life truly is the heart of God. 
 
How has becoming a Mum been different or similar to what you imagined?
 
I had nannied a lot before I became a parent and if I’m totally honest, I thought I would have parenting DOWN! Then along came Heppy, my breastfeeding was not how I’d imagined it at all in my head and I was SO overwhelmed?! She was losing weight and choosing to exclusively pump for her I was losing who I was too. I had made motherhood harder for myself through the unhealthy expectation I had put on myself. I didn’t know about the postpartum sweats or the hormones being all over the place. But in the midst of that, I had never felt love like it. I don’t think there’s anything to sum up motherhood, it’s beautifully messy but I wish the first time I had been kinder to myself. It’s easy to want to keep up appearances but the truth is the mum sitting next to you is probably struggling with something too! 
  
Please could you pass on any encouragement to any new Mums out there?
 
Run your own race. Our worlds now exist a lot on social media platforms and levels of comparison are probably at an all-time high. In front of our faces are the mums feeding without issues, mums with devotionals open at 4am as their kid's sleep, and families laughing and playing on the beach together on a weekend.
No family is free of struggle. Keep your eyes on your family. Find out what matters for your family. You are the best person for the job. 
I know when I started out I just wanted someone to tell me I was doing a great job. I didn’t need someone to recommend another book or another product I could buy, I just needed someone to say WELL DONE! YOU ARE A GREAT MUM! So if you need that encouragement today take it! And communicate with your person or partner what you need. I heard this once and found it useful- do you need me to fix it, or do you need me to listen. And listen was often what was needed!
 
Thanks for sharing your story, Megan.  We love having you as part of team NPI! 


Pollard family

Building Your Family Mental Health and Wellbeing


Despair and desperation filled my mind when my 14 year old daughter, Lizzie, became very ill with Anorexia Nervosa. I had a degree in psychology, but nothing prepares you for the devastating feeling of helplessness when mental illness affects your own family.
Thankfully, over time, Lizzie journeyed through to recovery, got to medical school, and is now a happy, healthy, doctor. So, here are a few thoughts from our journey that might help you and your family.

1. Be discerning about diagnoses.
If your child develops mental ill-health, it is important to talk with your doctor who might provide a diagnosis and a pathway to treatment. But a diagnosis is not a panacea, it brings its own challenges.
Once we ‘get a diagnosis’ we may feel that it is now the responsibility of clinicians to fix the problem, just like they would if they diagnosed appendicitis or a broken leg. And so, we might expect to watch passively from the side-lines, missing the opportunity for effective Family-based Self-help.
And our child may experience their own sense of impotence, if they are labelled with a condition which they feel now defines them. Early in Lizzie’s recovery journey my wife Carol and I decided that we would never describe her as ‘an anorexic’. She was Lizzie, a unique and beautiful person. Yes, she was living through an eating disorder, but there was much more to her than just this illness, and she had a whole life ahead of her. The diagnosis was indeed helpful in providing a pathway to treatment, but it should not define her.

2. Be confident in your capacity.
Increasingly, research shows the value of Family-based Self-help for mental health, especially when family members have been equipped with the knowledge and skills to provide appropriate support. This is why Family Mental Wealth (the social enterprise we co-founded to help other families - see www.FamilyMentalWealth.com) has published the Headway: Parent Toolkit which teaches key skills drawn from the ‘New Maudsley Method for Skill-based Caring’, developed at King’s College and the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
Learning these skills was not easy for me, particularly, because I am naturally a ‘Mr Fix-it’ kind of person. But gradually I discovered how to help Lizzie overcome the illness. It was Lizzie who had the lead role, I was just a supporting actor, but I had a vital part to play.

3. Remain full of faith.
Family Mental Wealth is not a faith-based organisation. But Lizzie, Carol and I personally recognise the growing body of research into the mental health benefits of spirituality (eg Miller et al, 2003[i]). For example, regarding eating disorders, a systematic review of 22 research studies (Akrawi et al, 2015[ii]) concluded that: ‘strong and internalised religious beliefs coupled with having a secure and satisfying relationship with God were associated with lower levels of disordered eating, psychopathology and body image concern’.
Certainly, in Lizzie’s case, there were significant steps forward in her recovery journey when Carol and I helped her to see it through the eyes of her faith; to know that God loves her as she is, and can enable her to grow into the fulness of the person she can be.

4. Hang on to hope.
When Lizzie was very ill, Carol and I often felt like we were in a dark tunnel with no light at the end. But the evidence shows that ‘hope for recovery’ is a significant factor to help people, and their parents, on a journey through a mental health condition. So, how do we maintain hope when we feel despair?
For those of us who cherish the Bible, there are biblical principles that can enable us to hang on to hope. For me, I found Psalm 30 particularly powerful… ‘Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.’ I wrestled with that promise in the darkest times of Lizzie’s illness. I kept asking God when that morning of rejoicing would come. But, as Lizzie gradually progressed through the recovery journey, Carol and I discovered that we should not be living for one sudden morning of complete joy. Rather there were many mornings of small joys. We learned to be thankful for each one. We celebrated each little step along the journey. And we held on to the faith that there was hope and a future.

By Nick Pollard BSc (Psych), MBPsS, FRSA.
Photo of 
Dr Elizabeth McNaught with her parents Nick and Carol Pollard


[i] Spirituality, religion, and health: an emerging research field. Miller W, Thoresen C. American Psychologist. 2003; 58: 24-35.
[ii] Religiosity, spirituality in relation to disordered eating and body image concerns: A systematic review. Akrawi D, Bartrop R, Potter U, Touyz. S. Journal of Eating Disorders. 2015; 3: 29.
 
Family Mental Wealth

Boy reading Bible

Exploring the Bible Together

How many times as parents have we sat down with our children to help with their homework or school project and not known the answer or how to explain it to our children? Luckily, we have the internet to help teach us to teach our children. When we are really stuck we can even watch a video that helps explain things step by step.

Why then do we do this for Maths or English but not when we have questions or feel unsure about our confidence in the Bible?  At Bible Society, we work hard to develop resources that are engaging for all families no matter where they are on their faith journey and that are also really fun to do. If we wouldn’t do them with our own families, we wouldn’t encourage you to do them with yours.

One of our newest resources, designed for the entire family to gather around and explore together, is our Good New Bible – Family Edition. We partnered with our friends at Youth for Christ and listened to children and families as they told us what they wanted to see in a Bible. Every item was designed with you and your family in mind. We also know that every family is unique, so some items may not be in the Bible but are on our resource webpage, or will be uploaded soon. You can access the resources and 26 videos by scanning the QR codes in the Bible. Within the Bible you will find hundreds of interactive elements, tips on how to read the Bible, maps, and lots of space for drawing and colouring as well as prayers for your family and questions to chat about. This is a Bible that is designed to bring you closer to God, and closer to each other as well.

The different church seasons give us all moments to reflect on Jesus and his life. We appreciate that everyone is living busy lives, and we hope that as you journey with us through Lent, Easter and Pentecost you will find resources that work for you and your family. We have Wonder Walks for getting outside and reflecting on Scripture and books to read, as well as a whole suite of fun and engaging interactions to choose from during the in-between time from Easter to Pentecost. Our colleagues in the Catholic Church have also developed a number of Easter and education resources for the God Who Speaks campaign.

Families who are looking to widen their love of the Bible can join our Rooted Juniors programme. This membership scheme is aimed at children age 7–11 and gives inspiring stories from young people around the world as well as themes to enable them to grow their Bible knowledge.

One of my colleagues has said that if Jesus needed the Bible as the Son of God, then we really need it as the people of God. Our prayer is that we can walk alongside families as they journey through the Bible. You can find out more about Bible Society and our resources on our website.
 
Written by Kristin Stevenson, Children and Family Development Lead at the Bible Society
 

multi generational holiday

My Best Advice...

We’ve asked six parents of different generations to share with us some of their best pieces of advice.  We love what they’ve written, and really hope you find some encouragement for the journey.

Baby Toys
Under 5s...

The best piece of advice I have ever been given is that 'every child is different and what I soon realised: 'every mother is different'
I'd read a number of parenting books before I had kids, and so when my first child was born and she refused to feed, I interrogated myself. What was I doing wrong? How could I make things better? Why was I failing my baby? I put an unhealthy amount of pressure on myself. I'd tried everything in the book, everything on the online forums and in the end with that piece of advice I had to surrender and accept that every child and every mother is different and while it didn't work out this time, this may not be my story for future babies. 
In parenting, there are so many opportunities for anxiety to come in, and the not good enough's and the 'you're doing it wrong.' I believe God wants a different narrative. Find what works for your family, co-sleeping or crib sleeping, bottle or breast and trust that you with the help of God know your baby best! The author of the parenting books will have experience of the babies they have looked after but NOT yours! It will be different from the next family....because guess what...God made everybody differently! 

Megan Landreth Smith is a wife, mother of two and member of the NPI team


chalk
Primary Aged... 

Some of the best advice I’ve had for parenting primary school children came from the Parenting for Faith Course. A key thing has stayed with me is to give the children windows into our own walks with God. That has meant leaving the door ajar during my quiet times and not minding if they wonder in. When we’re in the middle of things and I’m prompted to pray for something or someone, I’ll often pray out loud. I try and let them see as much as possible of what it looks like in practice to walk with God, so they see it’s a normal and natural part of everyday life.
Another piece of advice I’ve held onto is never to criticise the church in their hearing, and I think that can be extended to their school. Church and school are such important, formative environments for them, and as we talk about and celebrate what’s good about them, big up their teachers and friends, it helps them engage positively when they’re there. They spend such a huge proportion of their waking hours in those places, may they know that they are good places to be.
 
Ellen Hunter Smart is a vicar’s wife and mother of four in the south west and is enjoying all that that entails!


Teenagers

Teenagers... 

Like all good advice, it’s so often passed on from those who’ve been there before us and that’s certainly true for my husband and I when it has come to parenting our teenage kids.  Just when you think you have some sort of idea of how to parent your children, this whole new teens-phase begins which is of course exciting, but also unfamiliar territory and brings about change in them and you.  First, regardless of age, never stop encouraging your kids and calling out was in good in them, but this has new poignancy for teenagers who can so easily have struggles with self-esteem. 
Second, we were told that the teenage years are like going into orbit for your kids, but they do ‘land again’ so be patient and be there for them, ready for conversations at any time of day!
Third, as parents, you move from being the ‘controller’ of your children to a ‘consultant’ of teenagers.  To keep your young children safe and well, you have to be in control so that they don’t do things that will harm themselves.  But the dynamic changes with teenagers and we have learnt that we need to be willing to listen and consider what our kids have to say, they need to feel heard and that their opinions matter, this approach can transform your relationship with them and build for the future.

Michaela Hyde is the executive director of Marriage Foundation, presenter of The Relationship Hub on YouTube and co-presenter on the relationship show,  ‘The M Word’ on Konnect Radio.  She is married to Nick and they have two teenage children.

young adult
Young Adults...

The thing about parenting young adults – I have two children in their early twenties – is that there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of advice or guidance that I can grab hold of. When my children were younger I was spoilt for choice; I could consume several new theories every week. Now, we parents of young adults are on our own. It seems that the parenting gurus lose interest by the time the kids are taller than their mothers and fathers.

So, all I have to offer is my own three-pronged piece of advice, and it is this:

  • Let go,

  • Keep in touch, and

  • Pray

Prayer eases my anxieties, and for my children – they want to know that I’m there and that I care, but they don’t want me telling them what they should be eating for breakfast!

Mark Chester is the Parent Support Manager at Care for the Family 

Grandparents

Grandchildren...

From the day our son and daughter-in-law first announced their pregnancy, we started to get lots of advice given to us from other grandparents of varying ages. The best piece of advice we were given was only do for the first what you can maintain for the rest. This didn’t really make sense, until he was actually born. As soon as we heard the news (he was born in lockdown, so we were unable to see him until he was nearly 6 weeks old) our urge was to go and buy loads of things for him. Every time I walked past a baby clothes stand in the supermarket, I would be tempted to purchase something new. I wanted to shower him with whatever I saw. But each time, that sound advice rung in my ears. Whatever we spend on this grandchild we would need to be prepared to spend on all the subsequent grandchildren. We have four children, so the number of grandchildren could potentially grow quite large.
That same advice spreads across into his spiritual life as well. Praying for him daily is easy and can definitely be maintained for others to come. We have also resolved to take lots of photographs of all our future grandchildren at every stage. Looking back at photos of our own children, we realise we have very few of them individually as babies; lots for the oldest, but all subsequent babies are mostly with siblings. With hindsight, maybe that would have been good advice for us as parents too.  

Paula Clarke is a mum of three adults and a teenager and grandma of one toddler. She is a trained teacher and also works with children and families in her local church

Great grandparent

Great-Grandchildren

I pray that my great granddaughters may be nurtured with wisdom by Godly parenting to enable them to have the courage to stand firm in the Christian faith and enjoy the fullness of life that brings and the peace that passes understanding.
My daughter told me that when she came back to faith after ten years away, it was helped by our overwhelming love, whatever she had done. I believe in bringing up children in the Christian faith. God is love, how can we go wrong? 

Lyn Goodwin is a gardener, artist and great grandmother of three 
 

Compassion 1

Parenting, Poverty and Progress:
A Free Family Discipleship Resource 

 
If you’re a parent, caregiver, grandparent, children’s worker, or you play some part in teaching or raising children, you’ve probably found yourself thinking, ‘how can I raise children to care about the world around them?’  
 
We know God calls us to love our neighbour but may struggle to work out what that means in practice. So, how can we encourage our children to live out their faith and make a positive difference in the world?
 
That’s why Compassion UK has developed some free resources; a short video series, a five-part Bible study, and a children’s activity book, to help you talk to your children about big issues such as poverty and caring for the world around them. Each of the resources is explained below.
 
Parenting, poverty and progress - A Short video series
This short video series was produced in partnership with Care for The Family and St Luke’s Maidstone. In this series of 10-minute discussions, we explore five key themes connected with raising children to love their neighbour – how to create a place of love and belonging; how to make prayer and worship a natural part of family life; how can we help our children connect with their church community; how to be real about compassion; and how we can be intentional about justice.
 
The Compassion Collective
The Compassion Collective – produced by Compassion UK – is a set of five Bible studies for individuals, families, groups, and churches that attempt to address these questions and provide ways people can put what they’ve studied into practice.
Looking at the concept of justice, love, compassion, worship, and the church’s response, the series delves into scripture to reveal God’s mercy to His broken world. The author, Tim Robertson, reflects on God’s character, how we should respond to issues of injustice and looks at what God is already doing and how we can join in.
 
Compassion Explorers - A Children’s Activity Book For 5 to 11-year Olds 
Compassion Explorers is an adventure-packed activity book for 5 to 11-year-olds offering a whistle-stop tour of God’s beautiful creation, exploring what He has to say about big issues like poverty and love. Full of activities and crafts, it’s a fun and engaging way for children to discover more about the world around them.
 
About Compassion
Compassion is a leading Christian children’s charity working to release children from extreme poverty in Jesus’ name.  
At the heart of their ministry is a relentless passion to act with compassion and empower every child left vulnerable by poverty. Their approach to fighting poverty is highly focused and personal. Since 1952, they’ve been giving children the opportunity to escape the suffering and fear that poverty brings through their one-to-one child sponsorship model.
Compassion partners with the local church to care for children living in extreme poverty in their community. The local church knows local needs, they know how difficult their mission field can be, and they’re not going anywhere.
 
Where to go from here?
If you’d like more information about The Compassion Collective, or to find out more about sponsorship, please visit compassionuk.org or call their friendly staff on 01932 836490. They’d love to hear from you and pray with you. You can also learn more about Compassion’s work through their regular monthly updates by subscribing to Compassion UK’s Prayer and Stories email here: compassionuk.org/pray-connect/prayer/
 
Written by Liz Boalch, Content Manager at Compassion
 
 
 
 

Imagination creativity
Faith & Imagination

 

Close your eyes, imagine a busy lunchtime club in a primary school, children giggling and chatting, decorating hearts and treasure boxes, exploring gems and beads, sharing what Jesus has just been showing them:

  • I saw Jesusheart was beating for me. I felt happy. Thats the first time I’ve heard Him!

  • I said to Jesus “Take this worry and it’ll be gone for ever.” He took it away. God came and held my hand and said “Whatever worry you have give it to me.” I really felt His hand…

These children were buzzing with excitement, they’d just experienced an Adventure Time: a prayer tool that helped them meet with Jesus using their imaginations.  A whole new way of engaging with Jesus was opening up to them, many for the very first time, and it was easy and fun and full of love and friendship. Full of who God is!

Jesus is with us in the busy moments of everyday family life. He is with our children when they are at school, He is with our pre-schoolers and babies as they play and explore, He is with us all the time…

The Godhead is endlessly creative in the ways He engages with us and our families. He is full of joy and delight in us, His children.

And He has made us to be like Him:
 
Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
 
He made us in His image to meet with Him in various ways, the imagination being one such way.  Our imaginations are a gift from the creator.
Creativity and imagination go hand in hand…
 
We can use our imaginations for good; for example by being creative, believing Gods truth and dwelling on good things.  Or we can use them for bad; for example by worrying about the future negatively or imagining awful things happening.
I believe God wants to sanctify our imagination; for it to be renewed and restored to be used for His glory and our benefit: God is super serious about what we think about and dwell on in our imagination, especially thinking about and engaging with Him!
 
Ephesians 4:23 (NLT)
Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.
 
Romans 8:6 (NLT)
Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
 
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
 
We want the children in our lives to know God’s life and peace, to be confident, empowered and equipped by Him, to learn how to dwell on Him in their minds and imaginations.
 
Let’s help them use their God given imagination and creativity for good.
 
Ways to get started:
Start where your child is at - what do they like to do, what is their favourite thing to play with, what draws their attention, what do they talk about?
Anything can be a starting point, as God is in the everyday: a walk in the woods, a story, playing with cars and diggers, putting out the bins, a drive in the car, a favourite movie…
Listen to them, what are they saying, noticing, experiencing, and get pulled into their world of being easily awed and their endless wonderings.
And whilst you do this listen to Holy Spirit too, what is He highlighting, what is He wanting you to engage with, or learn about or just rest in?
Seek to create an environment of learning together, being humble and present and having lots of fun.
Get ready for your heart to expand with God’s love and revelation as you play with God and your child.
 
An idea to get you started!
 
Make a joyful noise Encounter Fun activity:
Psalm 100:1-2 (NCV) Shout to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with joy; come before him with singing.

  • Find some musical instruments, grab a pan and wooden spoon, or create your own with pasta/rice/oats in a yogurt pot/plastic bottle!

  • Explore the different noises you can create together such as shake, bang, tap?

  • Show your younger child how to play quickly and slowly, loudly and quietly and see if they can copy you.

  • Challenge your older child to create a rhythm for you to copy.

  • Say Lets praise Jesus together with our instruments. We can make a happy noise to say we love God and thank Him for loving us. Have fun making a joyful noise to Jesus together.

  • Why not shout out different things to praise Him: “Father God, You are good”, “Jesus, we love You!”, “Holy Spirit, thank You!”

  • Regularly launch into a 'family praise time' during your week to express your love and worship to God until it becomes a cherished part of your life!

Adventures with JesusSarah Cornthwaite is passionate about children knowing Jesus for themselves.  She is the founder of Adventures With Jesus and has a huge range of resources and tools for helping children to explore faith on her website, as well as on her Instagram page.  You can subscribe to receive her inspiring emails here.   Sarah also works within the Children’s Ministry at Vinelife Church, Manchester. She is married with three children. She loves running, gardening and baking brownies!

 

 

 

Faith

Me?  Teach my kids the Bible? 

I dislike football.

As a teen, I had no idea what classmates were talking about on a Monday morning when discussing the matches of the weekend. I never saw the appeal of kicking a ball around at picnics or social gatherings. And that miserable party-pooper at University who turned down multiple invitations to go and watch football at the pub?

Yup, guilty as charged.

Because God has the most incredible sense of humour, He gifted me a son who is football-mad.  And when I say “football-mad”, I mean that he was kicking a soft ball with his knees as early as four months, sat in the baby bouncer.  We have footage of him scoring an amazing drop-kick past his dad, a few weeks off his 2nd birthday.  Football has dominated his life and his break-times as long as he can remember.

These days, at the ripe old age of 12, he has plenty of outlets for playing football: at school with friends, at home with siblings, after church with the random assortment of people that an after-church kickaround usually attracts.

But do you know what?

Sometimes I play with him. Yes, really.

Sometimes I listen to him chat about players, transfers, injuries and referee decisions. I ask questions and try to understand more.  Sometimes I watch matches with him (OK, the Euros were pretty good, I’ll grant you that).  And sometimes (hang tight, this surely deserves some kind of parenting accolade) I even let him talk me through his Match Attax cards.

What has happened in the last twelve years? Who have I become?  I certainly haven’t become a football expert.

What’s happened is that I’ve fallen crazy in love with my son.  I want to enjoy life with him, and because football is such a big part of his life, I can’t connect with him unless I make some attempt to connect with the football he adores.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t know very much about it. It doesn’t matter that the only area in which my football knowledge surpasses his is in the area of football anthems (“Three Lions” and “Vindaloo” both being chart hits of my adolescence).  What matters is that we do it together.

I honestly don’t think that teaching our kids the Bible is much different. It doesn’t rely on our knowledge, just our love for our children and our willingness to get alongside them in something hugely relevant to their lives (and ours). But somehow, the very thought scares us off.

We believe we don’t know enough about the Bible.  We worry that we’re too young in our own faith.  We expect we won’t have “the answers” (whatever that means).  We wonder whether this kind of thing is best left to the professionals: church pastors, children’s workers, camp leaders.

The truth is, the best person to teach your child the Bible is you. Yes, you – with all your unanswered questions, rarely-read Bible books and limited understanding. You are the one your child trusts the most, the one who sees them at their best and worst, the one who loves them unconditionally, the one they’re watching to see faith in action.

Deuteronomy 6:7-9 says:

Impress [God’s commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

The Israelites, to whom this passage was written, would have had ‘formal’ occasions to learn about God just like our children do in church. And praise God for all the amazing people who invest in our children on a Sunday.  But Moses is saying that that’s not enough! God’s Word is not just to be heard in a weekly church service or youth group. It needs to be chatted through, thought about, mulled over, discussed, questioned, tested.

A modern paraphrase of that passage might go something like this:

“Impress God’s Word on your children. Talk about it when you’re chilling at home, and when you’re on the school run. When you’re going to sleep and first thing in the morning. Write it out, hold it, wear it. Display Scripture around your home; surround your family with it.”

We don’t need to have all the answers. We don’t need to read huge long chunks. And – you’ll be pleased to hear – we don’t need to start with Deuteronomy.

There are some brilliant resources to help – I have a helpful run-down of over 20 of the best Bibles for children and youth on my blog, as well as lists of children’s devotional resources and some great resources for family devotions too.

But you could just open up your Bible, read a couple of verses from a gospel, then ask your kids what they thought.  Just like I’ll go and have a kick around with my son, even though I have no idea what I’m doing, teaching our kids the Bible is about being willing, getting involved, learning from our kids and sharing what God has taught us.

Try it!

Lucy Rycroft is the founder of The Hope-Filled Family, a resource to equip Christian parents and adopters. You can connect with her on Instagram, where she’s currently sharing encouragements to #teachyourkidsthebible. Lucy lives in York with her vicar husband Al and their four kids, and is the author of Redeeming Advent and Deborah and Jael.
 
 

 

 

Baby Toys

Parenting Sermon Notes

 
One of the great joys of my life is being a father and a grandfather. So often it feels like we only get the hang of parenting by the time our children have left home, and it is certainly true that grandchildren make adults out of the parents and children out of the grandparents!

Here are four principles I have learnt through being a father and a grandfather.
 
  1. Commitment.  God’s example of commitment to us, his children, should be our example.  As God has shown covenant love to you and me, so we need to show commitment to our children.
 
    2. Compassion.  God’s love means that he wants the best for us.  We need to seek to be             those who love our children with a similar compassion.
        A compassion that wants the best for them.
        A compassion that wants to give them roots and wings.
 
  1. Care.  Out children don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.  We are to provide a social, psychological, and spiritual framework in which our children can grow. 
        Children spell love T.I.M.E. Should we give our children quality time or quantity time?
        The answer is: quality quantity time.
 
  1. Cost.  The parable of the prodigal is a lesson in parenting.  We must always be prepared to let our children go, but equally, we must always be ready to welcome them back, whatever the cost. 
        If your children are prodigals, keep your house open with hope.
 

        Written by Canon J John, who can be found at @canonjjohn and www.canonjjohn.com
 

Teenagers


Parenting for Faith -Teens Focus

In the autumn 2021, the Parenting for Faith team will be running an online Parenting for Faith course specifically for the parents and carers of teens, or people who work with or who have teens in their life. Rachel Turner will be delivering the sessions live as we explore and learn what parenting for faith looks like when you have teenagers.

We know that parents and carers flourish when they are part of a supportive community around them: people on the same journey and people to encourage and support them. The Parenting for Faith course is usually run as part of a church, with a church leader hosting the course, creating community and pastoring the parents and carers on the course. But there are also occasions when people don’t have access to a local course, and in the past, we have run online courses so they can come alongside other parents and carers and do the course.

Therefore, there will be two ways for people to join the course:

  • As individuals, who will be sent the Zoom link. They will be put into breakout rooms for the discussion groups with other people who have signed up individually.
  • As part of a church group. A church host will sign up and receive the Zoom link. They are then free to pass that link onto as many families as they wanted to. If they are able to meet in person, it’s hoped that they might meet physically, watch the Zoom together and then chat and do the discussions together; if they are meeting on Zoom, then there will be a breakout room just for that church.

Our hope for the course is that as much as possible, parents and carers do the course as part of a church group, so we have fixed the price point to encourage churches to sign up to host their own families.

If you sign up as a church, we’ll also invite you to an optional online training event on 16th September. This will be to chat through how the course will work and explore together some of the specific needs and questions parents of teens have and some ways to support them well as you journey together.

Do sign up! The eight week course will run on Wednesday nights during the autumn term, starting on 29th September (with a week off in half term).

You can book and find out more about what will be covered in each session here - https://parentingforfaith.org/PFF-teens-focus

Written by the team at parenting-for-faith logo (2)

1042948

Parenting & Faith

I wonder what you thought you’d need to be a parent? I recently went to choose a gift for a new baby and was overwhelmed by the vast array of things you can buy for an expectant parent. Whilst many of these are beautiful or useful, they aren’t really what new parents need most.
 
Most of us learned the hard way. You need patience, coffee and… whatever your child demands of you at a given time.
 
Our children expect that we’ll have whatever they need, don’t they? Whether that’s a plaster for a scraped knee, a song to lull them to sleep or a repair plan for the toy they’ve just broken. They just assume we’ll know how to be a medic, a sports coach, a tutor, a taxi driver and of course a master negotiator.
 
Whether we feel confident in those areas or not, bit by bit, we figure it out. We get a bag and fill it with snacks and spare clothes. We google how to do the maths homework so we can help them. We teach them to talk, walk, share and problem-solve. We cheer them on for each tiny bit of progress and cuddle and listen to them when it’s tough. As parents, we learn to coach our children to help them thrive in so many different areas of their life.
 
But then for some reason, when it gets to the ‘spiritual stuff’, when it gets to God, we’re flummoxed. For most of us with a faith, we’d say we want to give our children the opportunity to get to know God in the way that we do. But, actually helping them to do that can feel difficult. Sometimes we don’t know where to start or what to say. Other times we worry about getting it wrong so end up not doing anything. Many of us feel we are so busy, with the treadmill of the rest of life, that it gets squeezed out.
 
And so that’s why Parenting for Faith exist. We’re here to resource and equip you to help your kids and teens meet and know God in the midst of the mundane, everyday bits of parenthood. You are in the best position to show your children what a life with God looks like. Not because you have it all figured out, but because you are with them through the ups and downs of a normal day. You also know your child, your family and your situation better than anyone else.
 
At the heart of our free resources, are five key tools. They give you confidence and skills to help and support your child as they grow in faith. They don’t need any extra time, a craft cupboard or a theology degree, so can you can use them any time, anywhere. In fact, they're perfect for when you're being the medic, sports coach,  tutor, taxi driver or negotiator.
 
To discover all our free resources including the Parenting for Faith course, the key tools, a podcast and hundreds of articles and videos, go to www.parentingforfaith.org

By Anna Hawken, National Parenting for Faith Coordinator

 

1053490

Helping our children to navigate friendships after such a long time apart

2020 has presented many challenges for everyone including our children. Spending over five months in some form of lockdown, away from family and friends, has been really difficult.

In the first few days and weeks we tried to plan video calls with friends. But I quickly realised that my two boys aged 7 and 9 didn’t spend a whole lot of time really ‘talking’ with friends without the interaction of running around or playing games. Until that point, so much of their friendship and interaction was based on play or the activities they were doing together, and that was much more difficult to do through a screen, so those calls soon dropped off. Many of our children spent a long time without seeing their friends or having play dates.

Then with school restarting they are suddenly back with a lot of children for much of the day and are having to navigate different relationships again. Some kids will have slipped right back into friendships easily, going full steam ahead. However, there will be those who are finding it hard and we want to help all our children through this time of change. To be honest, I’ve had to remind myself of the important principles to adopt when interacting with others as well!

There are a few things we’ve found useful:

  • Help our children to listen
Sad to admit, but with so much time together at home through lockdown, we slipped into bad communication habits. We didn’t speak to one another quite as well as we normally would, especially when we were all trying to work, have Zoom calls and homeschool at the same time. A lot of the time we talked over one another and didn’t listen. If you take that into a friendship, it often won’t work out well! We’ve been reminding each other, and our children, about the importance of listening to others, hearing what they are saying and being interested in what is important to them.
  • Help them to care about others
My children have not had to think about others quite as much in lockdown. Going back to playing with other kids who don’t want to play the same game as them or who want to talk about something different has been quite a challenge. They are having to re-learn the importance of valuing others and their opinions, likes and dislikes.
  • Find alternatives to help cultivate friendships outside of school

Where we used to arrange playdates and have someone round for tea after school, we might need to think outside the box to help our kids spend time with friends away from the school environment. Are there activities they could do while on a Zoom call together? Or can we plan a socially distanced outdoor walk in the woods? It might take some effort and intention, but this could really help them to bond with others again.

Finally, there is a great opportunity to help our children remember that their Heavenly Father is with them always and they can talk to him when they are finding life tough. He can help them when they fall out with friends, feel frustrated or need extra patience.

Our children are incredible and we can help them grow in their relationships and develop skills for life.

Becky Denharder is Project Manager at Kitchen Table Project.  To find out more about Kitchen Table Project and to find inspiration for encouraging faith at home, visit their website here

 

1097957

Why is our identity such a big deal?

I am from a privileged enough, Christian, farming background and tried my hardest to do everything 'right' - that was, 'right' from the perspective of what I thought others expected from me. I lived according to that rule, hoping to please, be accepted and fulfil a good, Christian, happy life.  I filtered my thoughts and actions through others for whom I lived, unaware that I even had a voice.

I lived abroad and have travelled a good bit, enjoying many amazing experiences along the way, yet in time, things began to unravel. Rather than take your time sharing the detail (a lot of which is not pleasant), I will bring you to the here and now which is me being me, a lone parent to a 5yr old boy and 3yr old twins, a girl and a boy. I've been through separation and then divorce, other relationships and another separation from the children's father to whom I was not married. As you will imagine, in there are many other stories, struggles and survivals. 

Our journeys are different but each one of us has a heart and a mind, it is how we use them to press on that will forge a change, hopefully a positive one, for our future and our children's futures.

How do we learn from our pasts? To dwell in them is often unhealthy, yet to glance back to regain forward focus can be necessary. We may notice scars but see that they are a sign of healing and learning - we acknowledge them with respect and press on. We may feel as though we are insignificant but let me remind you that no one has ever been created like you before, nor ever will be. You are absolutely unique and designed for a purpose that only you can fulfil.


If I can begin to see myself as God sees me, then the lens through which I view my life, my roles, my purpose and significance will all have the correct perspective. There will be far less need to debate, challenge and cross examine my feelings associated with being battered by every change or conflict.  I will remain secure, despite my circumstances.

So, living through a pandemic and all that it has brought both me and you, I now ask myself, has it changed my identity? Let's face it, roles will have changed, maybe financial circumstances will have been affected, relationships forged or severed, mental health implications faced, challenging choices made, exhaustion levels rocketed to unsustainable heights - who am I now? The amazing answer to that, is that God is still God and He holds me just as He has always done.  He is and can be a refuge (Psalm 46v1), a strong tower, a rock, a fortress, but He is also the God of all Comfort (2 Cor 1v3) and He holds me in the palm of His hand, so I need not be afraid. Hebrews 13v8 says "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever".

My identity is in Christ ... I am a 46yr old woman who does not work at the moment but is a mother to 3 children; I am a daughter; an auntie; a sister; a cousin; a friend; a neighbour; a volunteer; someone with a vision for the future to fulfil a work that only I can do. I would like to own some bluebell woods; I love to see trees and hear birds; I will hopefully always have a dog and be surrounded by family and friends. I need to work on patience and self-discipline. I need to look after my body more and yet be less concerned about my external appearance and more focused on my inward self. 

I may be broken but I have been mended and God sees me as all the more beautiful for having been broken. I reflect the image of God and can shine as the noonday sun, like a city on a hill which cannot be hidden. This self-assurance is a beautiful outward display of the working of God’s love on the inside. I hope that my life and identity live out this great truth.

Written by Ingrid Hatt, who blogs beautifully over at Faith in the Frenzy
 

1103494

Being with: A gift of relationship


“It’s important to stop and do nothing sometimes.”

How many of us have heard this? How many of us manage to ‘do nothing’?  This certainly isn’t something that comes easy to me. I wonder what unexpected things might open up for us when we are able to ‘be’, rather than to ‘do’?

The other day I was sitting in my garden waiting for someone to arrive at the door, so yes, I was doing something! I was waiting. The visitor was late to arrive and so I had the chance to sit and be. I put my legs up on a chair opposite me and enjoyed the sun. In this moment my pre-teen came up and sat on the chair where my feet were positioned and proceeded to put his legs up on mine. We sat like this for almost an hour, as he told me all about life at school – the most I have heard since he started at his new secondary school last September. I said virtually nothing. I listened. I was present.
 
Looking back on this encounter – which I must say happens rarely with my twelve-year-old son – I began to wonder what had made this special moment possible. Revd Dr Samuel Wells describes such an encounter as ‘being-with’(1). Wells says that ‘being-with’ involves showing up and paying attention. It doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?! Yet in the busyness of our lives, filled with our many thoughts, things that ‘have to be done’ and the pull of social media, the simplicity of presence and attention can be very difficult to achieve. Unusually, in fact very unusually, my mobile phone was not next to me and wasn’t even in the same place as me. Wells talks powerfully that in our world where being immediately contactable is a given, putting our mobile phone away is actually a way of saying “I love you.”(2)
 
Similarly, the idea of ‘being-with’ is at the heart of the parenting group we run at Connected Lives - Circle of Security Parenting (3). One of the things we reflect on during the group is to consider how able we are to ‘be-with’ our children in all of their feelings. This can depend on how able our own parents were to ‘be-with’ us in these emotions. As a facilitator, I find this exercise profound and for many parents this can be the starting point in a shift from thinking about parenting as a role to be done, and rather more of as a relationship to be entered into.
 
Many years ago, I went to live alongside people with learning disabilities in a L’Arche community (4). There I met a man whom I will call John who transformed my view of relationships. John did not speak, yet he taught me what ‘being-with’ looks like from the inside-out. John liked to spend time ‘being-with’ me. In his silence, in his presence, I came to know I was loved. Deeply loved. Loved in a way I had never known before.

Thanks to my visitor running late, I was given the opportunity to ‘be-with’ my son. This was not something I did to fill the time, but the real reason for being in the moment. Surely, this is the work of the Kingdom of God.

Written by Dr Helen Bell, Director of the Connected Lives Cambridgeshire Hub


1.A Nazareth Manifesto: Being with God. Samuel Wells. (2015).
2.https://www.larche.org.uk/news/sam-wells-on-being-with-and-belonging-in-a-time-of-loneliness
3.https://www.circleofsecurityinternational.com/ 
4.https://www.larche.org.uk/

1110853

Faith, Hope and Motherhood

Becoming a mum brings so many changes to your life: your time, priorities, expenses, energy, maybe even your work life, will change. My own children arrived in pairs: first one set of twins followed, three years later, by a second set.

My life with God had always been focused on what I could give to Him. Yes, I knew that Jesus alone was my redemption, but I thought that following Him meant I should give everything in response to His sacrifice. And in the early years of motherhood that became my problem: I had nothing left to give, so how could God be happy with me?

Maybe you recognize this dilemma. Maybe you’ve also worried you’re not enough.

God is gentler than you think
 
Years ago, I heard someone teach that God has a special grace for mothers of young children. I’ve held onto those words. And the Bible says something similar:
 
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
And carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young. (Isa. 40:11 NIV)
 
God is an attentive shepherd. He is actively carrying your children. He will ensure you are not left behind. He is sensitive to your needs and full of love for you in this season.

If you are feeling lost on the journey, be comforted, He is not lost; He will gently lead you on.

It may be time for a new measure

I used to think that following Jesus meant offering Him more and more of my time. When I had four preschool aged children, this felt like an impossible standard to measure up to. But (eventually) the constraints on my energy became a gift. I couldn’t be on every team. I couldn’t attend every meeting. God had to show me what was really at the heart of following Jesus.
 
John Ortberg puts it well in his book on spiritual disciplines The Life You’ve Always Wanted:
‘Am I growing in love for God and people?’ The real issue [in spiritual development] is what kind of people we are becoming. (Ortberg, 1997)
 
Am I growing in love – hadn’t my entire existence become an exercise in love? Motherhood has taught me more about love, both the ecstasies and the heartbreaks, than any other season in my life. I encourage you that it is motherhood, because of its constraints and challenges, that will grow you into a person who loves with the God’s love. Ask Him to do this in your life.

Constraints are a blessing

Stick with me! I promise you this is good news!

We live in a world that prizes freedom, agency and action. But you only need to take a walk with a toddler to realise that life with young children is distinctly lacking in freedom and agency. Caring for young children means living under constraints: they have (endless) needs, move slowly (or too quickly in the wrong direction!), and they do not understand our adult agendas. It’s stretching and often difficult.

I love what Paul says about how God uses difficulties: ‘[difficulty] produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope’ (Romans 5:4). Growth happens not despite the constraints, but because of the constraints.

If your difficulties have left you feeling hopeless, ask God to invite you into a new way of following Him.

I survived the early years, just about. But God used those years to build a better grounding for my spiritual walk with Him. Now when I stumble upon some new vulnerability, I remember that this too is a gift; this too can produce hope. I still look for His gentle leading. 

Lindsay Osborne is a freelance writer and proofreader living in Wales. She has four children and a very helpful husband. When she's not glued to her laptop, you'll find her pottering in the garden or drinking coffee.

1111922

Faith, Hope & Motherhood: The Bible

When did you last pick up a Bible?

In the little years I had times when the Bible was like daily manna - encouraging and sustaining me, alongside periods of time when it sat on a shelf barely opened.  There were times of sheer exhaustion when I simply held it, praying without words.  There were times too when I felt guilty, surely I should be reading it more

I found at times that my ‘good’ Bible reading intentions did not match up to my reality; but I learnt that this was not inconsequential or to be dismissed, because the reality; the bleary-eyed mornings, the cleaning Weetabix out of the highchair, the potty training attempts, were my reality – they weren’t added extras or inconveniences, they were the sacrifice and treasure of the little years, they were me pouring out love time and time again – living the very grace offered in the Bible. 

While I didn’t always feel it, the truth was that as I held my babies and toddlers, I was held by the “everlasting arms”* of Father God, who did not look down on a tired mama and sigh, “If only you read your Bible more…” but who held me with delight and divine love.  The same love He has for you too.

Below are a few simple encouragements and creative ideas for engaging with the Bible in the exhausting little years. 

  • Keep it simple.  A meaningful verse blu-tacked to a cupboard, a favourite verse memorised.  How about something physical?  A candle lit – Jesus, you are the light of the World, and I believe you’re here with me.  A rock collected on a walk – I’m building my life on the rock, who is my shelter, defence and refuge.    
  • Apps.  Bible studies, prayer guides, Christian meditation – there are so many options both in physical form and through the mystery of the internet, so why not have a look?  Some we’ve used or been recommended are:
  • Bible in One Year by HTB Church
  • Lectio 365 (A daily devotional app that helps you pray the Bible)
  • NIV audio Bible read by David Suchet (yes, Poirot is available to read the Bible to you)
  • Podcast.  If you enjoy listening to podcasts and studying the Bible, the BibleProject podcast might be for you – Indepth conversations about the Bible and Theology.  Maybe you’ve come across a podcast on the Bible already? – let us know if you’ve found a good one. 
  • Art.  If you are interested in connecting with the Bible through art, Sister Wendy Beckett has some beautiful books on art and the Bible, including ‘Sister Wendy’s Bible Treasury’.  If your imagination is sparked by poetry, Poet-Priest Malcom Guite writes beautiful poems in response to the scriptures. 
  • Friends.  Not always possible or easily found in the little years, but reading the Bible alongside others, with space to ask questions, share encouragements and voice doubts can be hugely strengthening.
  • Rest.  Rest?!  In the midst of what can be an overwhelming season, I think the Bible can show us a path to soul rest – a rest that isn't pulled to shreds by striving or pushed into a whirlpool of shame, but is, as is so beautifully put in Psalm 62, “solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul."

Kayte Potter is part of the NPI team and is a mum of three.
*Deuteronomy 33 v 27

1114432

Faith, Hope & Motherhood: Worship

 
The Westminster catechism says “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” The direction towards which we are headed inevitably impacts upon our journey, and if we, as parents, grandparents and extended family members can live with that as our main aim:  to glorify God and to ENJOY Him and build that into our children, then the kingdom of God will flourish and our children will thrive in their own developing relationships with their heavenly Father.
 
How do we achieve that with these tinies? Whose main purpose seems to be to disrupt all that we previously saw as ‘normal’ life, day and night.  I believe exploring how to worship with this age range is as important for the parents as for the tinies themselves.
 
I think my challenge over the years has been:
“How do I continue to worship God in spirit and in truth when I have a little infant attached to me 24/7?
How do I enjoy God and glorify Him in the middle of the deconstruction of life as I knew it pre-infant?”
 
It’s a challenge that I’d like to pass on to you… how do we worship on those days when there’s been no sleep, when words are unspeakable, when we know that the sequence will happen all over again in the next twenty-four hours?
 
Because in the years of our parenting, particularly in these very early years, it’s the way we live, worship and follow Jesus that provides the primary model for our tinies.
 
Reflecting on this afresh, I am grateful that it didn’t all rely on just myself and my husband to provide examples of expressive worship, there was a lovely diversity available within our church community, ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ who also provided safe, relational models. I have needed my extended church family and their various ways of expressing their love for Jesus, to help me demonstrate how to live a life of worship.
 
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…”
Worship is an act of obedience to this commandment. It requires day by day discipline. And moment by moment fresh supplies of mercy. It requires authenticity, for our worship needs to be in spirit and in truth. We wouldn’t want our children to learn any other kind of worship, right?
 
I don’t have any sparkly tips to pass on to you about developing worship with your tiny tot, but I do want to encourage you to invest your ordinary, everyday life with a desire to enjoy God.
  • Revisit the tried and tested wisdom of the children’s song “Read your Bible, pray every day…”
  • Feeding babies and toddlers can take up time, it may help you and your tot to listen to some worship music or a section of scripture via an audio app. Feed body, soul and spirit.
  • Maximise the time used on chores like cleaning, ironing etc by singing worship songs, if you can’t remember the words, well, it’s a great opportunity to sing a new spiritual song! In those times when it’s the dark of the night and all you want is sleep but your tiny infant thinks differently… sing. Your song will strengthen you; your worship will become a lullaby or a declaration whatever is necessary in that moment.
  • If you feel terrified at the thought of singing then quietly repeat your favourite Bible verses, His word has power.
  • Speak out in your own spiritual language, allow the Holy Spirit to help you into His rhythms.
Do the things you did at first, when you first fell in love with Jesus, and they will be seen and heard and learnt by your tiny infant.
 
Let Love’s invitation draw you deeper into living a life woven with the rhythms of His word, with prayer, praise, worship. All day, every day. Let yourself be carried by His unforced rhythms of grace into the place where praise is poured out with each generation.  
Every day.
 
Ruth Price is a registered Movement Psychotherapist, specialist in early years development, attachment and filial play, mother and grandmother, and self-professed city-type currently acclimatising to life on a smallholding.