Christmas is a great time to invite

Over the past month we have been planning and praying for our Christmas services here at Oak Grove.  We have intentionally decided to move away from a service on Sunday because of the impact on families and celebrating Christmas together.  I know that this is a decision that some with disagree with, however we’ve decided to move forward with only a Christmas Eve service.  This year, we are aiming at starting a new movement around Christmas as an opportunity to truly Pray, Invest and Invite!  You see, I think that Christmas gives us a great opportunity for each one to bring one.  I read an article recently about the opportunity to invite friends and neighbors around Christmas time and I wanted to share it with you.  You can see the original article here.  I’ve highlighted a few take-aways that have me planning to invite as many people as I can to Christmas at Oak Grove.

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3 Reasons Christmas Is The Perfect Time To Invite Someone To Church

By: Krista Ortiz

At this point in the Christmas season, most of us are scrambling to buy and wrap last-minute gifts. We’re up to our ears in cookies, we’ve got stockings to stuff, and parties to attend. 

But what if the most important thing that happens this Christmas isn’t something we do, but a question we ask? 

3 Reasons Christmas Is The Perfect Time To Invite Someone To Church

1. Christmas spirit already has people doing things they wouldn’t normally do. 

Only at Christmas do we see penny-pinchers digging in their pockets for change to give to the man merrily ringing the bell outside the store. For the sake of Christmas, even our most dysfunctional family members will gather around the table. And even if we aren’t sure we like eggnog, we’ll give it a try because, well, it’s Christmas. 

Research shows most people would come to church if someone they knew just asked, and people are more receptive to going to church at Christmas than other times of year (via LifeWay Research).  

Blame it on the infectious amounts of holiday cheer, but more than any other time of year people are willing to try something new, making it one of the best opportunities to invite someone to church. 

2. By nature, people are curious. 

Around the world, people will flock to churches on Christmas leaving others to wonder, “What’s all the hype about?” Never underestimate the amount of desire a little curiosity can spark.

Luke 2:15-16 says that when the shepherds heard about Jesus’ birth they said to one another, “‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened…’ so they hurried off and found Mary, Joseph and the baby who was lying in a manger.”

Curiosity is what led the shepherds to meet Jesus, and curiosity could be what leads the people you invite to meet Jesus as well. 

3. Many are in desperate need of good news and great joy. 

Every day people are faced with staggering circumstances, and Christmastime is no exception. Marriages end, loved ones pass away, and devastating test results come back. For many, the future seems bleak and hearts are broken.

Often, people who are hurting feel like church isn’t for them. Yet on the first Christmas, those who were frightened and in desperate need of good news and great joy were addressed directly.

In Luke 2:10-11 the angel responded, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born…”.

This Christmas, we have the opportunity to introduce those who are hurting to the same Savior. We can invite people to a place where they can meet the God who acknowledges their greatest fears, sees their deepest longings, and sent His Son to save us.

Whether someone comes to church out of curiosity, a willingness to try something new, or desperation for a Savior, it could be your invitation that leads someone to meet Jesus! At the very least, you’ll provide that person with a much needed break from all the small talk and Christmas movies. 

The hope we give away on Christmas is sure to outlast the cookies and the lights on the tree.

So…I believe that we do have an opportunity for each one to bring one!  Please consider being here for the Christmas Eve service and let’s choose to not come alone, because Christ came to seek and save the lost!

Christmas is a great time to invite

Article: How to show empathy with teenagers when they face disappointment.

Earlier this week I read this article and felt like it was good and helpful especially for parents who have teenagers or people who work with teens, and then this weekend happened.  This weekend we faced disappointments with our children.  My children are younger: elementary school age, and at times their worlds fall apart too!  When that happens it’s usually because of decisions they’ve made, tantrums they’ve thrown or siblings they have hit.  At that point, I am disappointed and I find that I often communicate that disappointment, so this article was very helpful for me to re-read!  You can check it out in its original form here, or read along below.  I’ve highlighted the portions that really helped me.  One thing I would add to the article is this: our children need to know that they are made in the image of God, they matter and God has a plan for them.  We can communicate that to them daily!

Our children need to know that they are made in the image of God, they matter and God has a plan for them.

How to show empathy with teenagers when they face disappointment

Kara Powell

Now that our kids have been in school for a while this fall, we are starting to see grades and test scores. While there’s much to celebrate, they’ve also had assignments not go as well as they’d hoped. Maybe you can relate.

As parents, we have a unique opportunity in the moment we first see the less-than-desirable grade. Especially when our child is watching.

Chances are we’re disappointed. But most of the time, our kids are also disappointed. In fact, even when they don’t show it or seem not to care, typically teenagers feel the disappointment—and often shame—of the failure (whether “failure” to them means an F or a B+). Deeply.

What young people need in the midst of their failures are empathetic adults. Not harsh judges (“What on earth happened here?”). But not cavalier bystanders either (“Oh well, it was probably the teacher’s fault.”) Instead, they need an adult willing to be present and listen (“Looks like this one was hard, huh?”) and eventually offer support (“What kind of help do you think you need right now?”)

Empathy starts with you—and your personal heroes.

In my life, when things don’t go as I hope, my favorite people have one thing in common: they make me feel better about myself. They understand the ups and downs of my journey, and through it all, they are on my team.

Of course sometimes I need hard truth-telling or a kick in the pants, too, but rarely does advice work well before empathy. As one of my heroes-from-a-distance, Brene Brown, explains, we experience empathy when someone climbs down in the pit with us and says, “I know what it’s like down here. And you’re not alone.” Or better yet, sometimes they say nothing at all for a while. What makes something better isn’t typically our actual response; it’s our connection. My real-life heroes are like that, too. I’m guessing the same is true for you.

Unfortunately, I sometimes miss the connection between what I need and what my kids need. While in many ways adult needs and adolescent needs are very different, we all need empathy when we’re disappointed and when we fail. We all want to be understood and heard.

We all need to know we’re worth being understood and heard.

That theme was echoed in our Growing Young research. In our study of thriving churches, one of the key reasons they were appealing to today’s young people was their ability to empathize with them—in particular with the difficulties of growing up in today’s world.

How to show empathy to your kids daily

The young people in your home need adults around them who understand their complex world and are willing to walk with them through its ups and downs.

In particular as my own three kids navigate adolescence and eventually emerging adulthood, I want them to sense my empathy. I want them to know that I’m not “feeling against” their choices; I’m “feeling with” them. 

I want my kids to know that I’m on their team in all the different rhythms of their day. [tweet that]

In the morning by the way I wish them “good morning” when they wake up. And let them know I’m praying for them. And am optimistic about what lies ahead for them.

In the afternoon through a warm greeting when they walk in the door. And asking open-ended questions about their day as I’m driving them to their various activities. And listening when they had a tough day or struggle with a friend. And not pushing them to talk when they clearly don’t want to.

In the evening by not rushing through our bedtime rituals (of everything I’ve written so far, this is the toughest for me; the later it gets, the less patient I am). And closing our day by asking them how I can pray for them.

What else do you do to show your kids you are on their team?
Article: How to show empathy with teenagers when they face disappointment.

Final Takeaways For Parenting

Over the past 6 weeks we have been talking about parenting in a sermon series here at Oak Grove called “Not Apparent”.  The whole premise is this: whether you are a parent or not, we all want to and need to impact the next generation – but it’s not always apparent how to do it.  I’ve been a parent for 9 years now and I certainly felt like I learned some powerful lessons in this series.  Let me share with you 4 main takeaways from the parenting series for my personal parenting.

  1. Patience is so key
  2. Plan and work ahead
  3. Start Early
  4. Relationship is king

So let’s work through these 4 thoughts.

First, patience is so key.  Patience with an infant is one thing.  Patience with a toddler is another.  Patience with a teenager is another.  Patience with all three at the same time is something all together different!  While that is truly, having patience with your children is one of the biggest ways that you can communicate to them that you value them, and not just a “better version” of them.  Remember:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4

Generally, my patience is tested when more than one child is having a rough day or struggling to obey.  In the midst of that, I’ve found that I need to fight hard to have patience and to interact with my children with patience because my Heavenly Father has been so patient with me.

Second, I need to plan and work ahead.  Here is what I mean: parents to plan and communicate with their children what happens when certain choices are made.  When they disobey, they need to know the consequences that are coming.  This removes excuses and helps children to understand the weight of their decisions.  Remember:

We are raising adults, not children, and adults have to face the consequences of their decisions.

We also need to work ahead on the issues that will be facing our children.  Start early with the discussions that you want to have.  Don’t put off discussions about sexuality, drugs and alcohol, caring for others who disagree with us and many other discussions.  Start early with teaching obedience and self-control.  Start early with meaningful relationships with your kids.  Listen to them.  Find out what they like, even though it probably means that there will be thousands of Pokémon cards all over your home or thousands of little LEGO pieces all over your floor that will embed themselves into your feet at night.

Last, but certainly not least, relationship is king.  Our kids to know that we are for them, not just for our “ideal” them.  Children struggle with so many pressures and difficulties especially as they get older.  If we want our teens to talk to us, trust us, and involve us in the final stages of their childhood we need to communicate care and invest in the relationship with them…not just the rules.  So, say yes as often as you can (Biblically and morally) and have fun with them.

Those are my major takeaways from the parenting series.  What are yours?

Final Takeaways For Parenting