When Me-Monsters Invade Disney World

A few weeks ago my family was able to spend a week at Disney World, which is coined “The Most Magical Place on Earth.” It definitely exceeded my expectations; however, during our time there, something became increasingly evident. During the middle of the week we encountered two boys around ten years of age that decided they should have an MMA fight at the Magic Kingdom because one of them didn’t get his way. What was interesting is that the dad was just standing there, watching his two boys duke it out. I thought he was going to pull out some popcorn, a coke, and a recliner and enjoy the show—until mom showed up. As if the boys weren’t bad enough with their haymakers, the parents began arguing with one another in front of everyone. The mom then said the dad shouldn’t make a scene (at this point it was way past a scene), so the dad barked back, “You want a scene! I’ll show you a scene!” and then began throwing his arms up in the air. At that point they walked off still yelling at one another. I am not sure who was worse, the kids or the parents, but it was very evident that even in “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” all of us are still selfish sinners.

We Are All Me-Monsters

Pastor Andrew uses the term well in calling kids, and all of us, “me-monsters.” Ever since Adam and Eve’s choice to prioritize themselves over God, we have all been working hard to make life all about ourselves. It is easy and natural for us to do this; so much so that even at Disney World kids and parents scream at one another.

As parents, we are the primary disciple-makers of our kids. We are called to point them to the gospel and show them how Jesus has been the “anti-me monster.” He poured himself out completely for us, and his generosity is what we should desire our kids to both receive and emulate. As we parent these me-monsters, we should realize that we are the same as they are with just as big of a need for Jesus. We can teach them that generosity is not natural for us either, but that Jesus has been generous to us, and because of that, we can now be generous.

Live Generously, Together

There is a great opportunity over the next few weeks to help your kids learn about generosity through our series on the Together Initiative. During these five weeks, the Kids Guide—which always goes along with the sermon—will help you dive into generosity with your kids and give you some easy action steps to take with them to help them live generously. We also encourage you to bring your kids into your family’s discussion about the Together Initiative. It gives you a great opportunity to talk with them about generosity and allows them to see it lived out in their parent’s lives. Encourage your kids to walk alongside of you as we all learn more about what it means to be generous.

As always, if you have any questions about Mercy Hill Kids or discipleship in your home, feel free to email me at bgordon@mercyhillgso.com.

-Brant Gordon (Kids Ministry Director)

Kids Ask Questions About Jesus and Tigers: How Do You Answer Them?

A few days ago, my preschooler asked me what would happen if a tiger bit Jesus. He looked up at me with big, wide eyes and earnestly waited for my response. I could tell he was very concerned and he desperately needed to know the answer to this deep, theological question. A thousand questions popped up in my mind all at once. Should I say Jesus would bite it back? Is an animal capable of recognizing its Creator? Does crushing a snake’s head give evidence that Jesus would kill the tiger?

I was a little bit at a loss to answer this tantalizing hypothetical, until I pulled myself together and thought a little deeper.

My son has nightmares about tigers. He often wakes up crying in the middle of the night and tells me that tigers are going to get him. He also has a little brother who bites, and the most pain he has probably ever experienced in his life came at the hands (or rather, the teeth) of his brother. By knowing my son, I could translate his question to, “What if the scariest thing in the world that can cause the most pain, happened to Jesus?” My son had just asked me, in the way he knew how, if there was a God who was greater than his fears.

I was then able to say, “Jesus is not afraid of tigers. God is even bigger than tigers, and you do not need to be afraid.”

My son looked back at me and said, “No. Jesus would have an ‘owie.’ Bye Mom.” And he ran off to play. Insert face-palm here.

Make Room for Questions

This was the first time I can recall hearing my son ask a question about Jesus. Kids start by memorizing simple truths (ex. Jesus loves them, the Bible is God’s true words). The next step on their spiritual journey to Jesus involves asking questions. The “why” stage can be humbling for us as parents when we find it difficult to answer all the questions that come up. On the flip side, it can be even more discouraging if our kids are not asking questions at all and seem disinterested in spiritual truths all together.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

Here are three things you can do today to create space in your home for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of your kids.

1. Tell Your Kids Your Story

Tell your kids why you love Jesus in specific terms and stories. It may feel awkward to bring up—and we all have messy parts of our story that we may need to spare our kids the details—but the incredible story of your reconciliation with God is too great not to tell. The foundation of our faith is built on relationships and truth. When you tell your kids your faith story, you build trust and a firm foundation for them to begin their own faith journey.

2. Create an Environment Where It is Okay to Ask Questions

Questions are a good thing. The number one sign that a child of believing parents has established his own faith is their asking questions. A child who just spouts memorized material has not necessarily accepted it in his or her heart. Encourage kids by asking them what questions they have about God. Ask them what they do not understand. Do not be afraid of not knowing the right answer. You can say, “I’m not sure about that. Let’s open the Bible together and find out.” There are a ton of resources available at the Family Resource Center (http://mercyhillgso.com/familyresourcecenter/) and contact information for the Mercy Hill Kids staff. They would love to equip you with answers to the hard questions kids ask.

3. Grow Together

Once school starts, it can feel impossible to sit down with everyone in your family and do family Bible studies/devotions. Gospel-centered homes can grow together as families with things you are already doing. We have a kids guide at the Mercy Hill Family Resource Center each week that mirrors the community group study guide. When you are waiting in that school pickup line, sitting on the bathroom floor while your preschoolers take a bath, or in the car ride to soccer practice, you can pull up the guide right on your phone and go through a couple questions to create opportunities for gospel conversations. It is a great tool for your family that’s available every week. As you engage with the gospel and grow through community groups, you can transfer it right into your home.

Parenting is daunting, exhausting, and yet full of so much joy. It is such a privilege to get to tell your kids about the amazing Jesus you love.

When Adults Look Like Toddlers

We’ve all seen it. It could be in a grocery store, a shopping mall, or when driving down the road. Someone gets cut off in a shopping line or on the street and absolutely loses it! He will begin screaming and trying to figure out how he is going to get back at the person who would do such a terrible thing. Someone else might respond with a more traditionally religious shaking of the head, casting the person off as a sinner of the highest caliber. Most everyone thinks, “How could someone do this to ME? Don’t they know this is MY spot? Don’t they know that I am in a hurry?”

Kids are not the only ones who throw temper tantrums, yet we are much quicker to notice these outbursts of selfishness in others, especially kids, than in ourselves. Kids are great examples to us about the selfishness that lies within because they haven’t learned to keep it as secret as we do. That’s why we must practice the removal of selfishness in ourselves and teach our kids how selfishness shows itself in them.

Ultimately, we must point them to generosity—the anti-selfishness. We must show them that perfect generosity is seen in Jesus giving His life for ours (Mt. 20:28). We cannot be perfectly generous, but Jesus has been that for us, and now we can be generous because of that truth. Kids learn primarily through verbal instruction and modeling. As parents we have an opportunity to teach kids the importance of generosity and show them how generosity is lived out in our lives.

Get Going with Generosity

This fall, Mercy Hill Kids is doing the Generosity Project in order to help parents teach their kids the importance of generosity. Each week we will be collecting coins and bills to provide clean water for families living in poverty. We are partnering with a missionary family from Mercy Hill who is serving in Southeast Asia, to help make this project a reality. We want kids to learn to be generous and know that their generosity fuels something much bigger than themselves. It fuels the mission of the church and can make a difference in making disciples of all nations. We are excited to see what God will do in the lives of kids over this season and hope that you will partner with us in making a difference here and across the world.

For more information about the Generosity Project, feel free to email me at bgordon@mercyhillgso.com.

-Brant Gordon (Kids Ministry Director)

You’re Invited: MH Students Fall Kickoff

There is something unique about the start of a new year that often brings a great deal of excitement. I remember as a student, from elementary well into my teens, I would lay restlessly in my bed awaiting the morning of the first day of school. With my new outfit laid out (this was before the fad of school uniforms), my new school shoes, my new bookbag, and my new school supplies, it seemed like morning would never come. The excitement of the new year also brought a time of personal reflection and goal setting. As a student this usually meant new friends and good grades. This was also true for me as a teacher. Each new year brought with it a fresh excitement and anticipation of what was to come.

The Mercy Hill student ministry team and I share a similar feeling regarding the MH Students Kickoff that is closely approaching. With a new name, new logo, new night of the week, and new location, the team eagerly awaits the first night of student ministry for the 2017-2018 school year. The beginning of this new year has allowed us to reflect on what God has done and set big goals for what we want to see God do within the students of Mercy Hill.  

So if you are a student reading this blog, here are a few thoughts for you…

Great Time to Jump on Board

If you have been involved in the past, we are excited to reconnect with you. In addition, we are excited to lock arms with you as we unfold our vision for the 2017-2018 school year. For those of you that will be brand new to MH Students, this is the best time to jump in. This night will be dedicated to telling you what MH Students is all about, and we will have a great time as we do it.

Bring a Friend

This is going to be a special night. There will be activities, games, a rock-climbing wall, giveaways, and conversations that you’re not going to want to miss. With that in mind, we are encouraging returning students and new students alike to bring a friend with them so that they too might hear what God could do in their lives this semester.

See You Then

The student ministry team wants to invite all students in grades 7 through 12 to come to our annual kickoff event in which we will connect, have fun, cast vision, and get excited about what God has in store for students in the 2017-2018 school year.

 — Ronald Redmond (Student Ministry Director)

The event is Sunday, August 27th at the Regional Campus from 6:30-8:00pm

Introducing Our New Student Director: Ronald Redmond

People are very important to the success of any organization. That much is obvious.  However, leadership is not about simply putting any person in charge; it’s about identifying the right person for the right job and then letting them run with their passion and skill. Jim Collins, in his legendary work Good to Great says, “Great vision without great people won’t come to fruition.”

At Mercy Hill, people are the mission. And to see the mission fulfilled, we know we need great people. That is why I could not be more excited about one of our newest staff additions. Back in July we welcomed Ronald Redmond to the Mercy Hill staff team.  Ronald has stepped into our Mercy Hill Student Director position. I had the chance to sit down with Ronald and ask him a few questions about life and about student ministry.


 

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am a proud husband and proud poppa. My wife Anali and I are married with four kids.  Our kids names go I, J, K, L (Ilana, Josiah, Karina, Lydia), and we don’t plan on making it to Z. I grew up in Greenville, NCMercy Hill Church - Staff - Ronald Redmond and went to Chapel Hill for undergrad. Once I graduated from Chapel Hill, I moved to Greensboro.

What are some of your hobbies and passions?

I’m hugely passionate about music. I’ve been told several times that when I’m talking it sounds like I’m rapping. I do rap. When I was a schoolteacher I would take popular songs of the day and make them about math.  

There’s a rumor that you’re pretty good at PS4…

I haven’t played since I took the position at Mercy Hill. I went cold turkey. But I would challenge any student to a game of NBA2k. Anyone who would want to challenge me . . . let’s do it.

What did you do before MH?

For the last seven years I taught in the public school. I taught five years of 6th grade math  at Jackson Middle. I taught 2 years at Cornerstone Charter Academy.

How has your teaching experience prepared you for ministry?

Teaching has given me a passion for partnering with parents. At Jackson Middle there was no parental support; while at Cornerstone there was a lot. It showed me how powerful it was for a student’s success to have the parents involved. As a teacher, I couldn’t overcompensate for what a student lacked at home; so, it made it vital to partner with families to have the greatest impact on students.

Why do you love student ministry?

I avoided any involvement in student ministry prior to taking this role because I taught students Monday through Friday and then went home to my kids. Two years ago I went on a missions trip to the Dominican Republic, and I got to lead a Kids Week. While I was there I was teaching the Bible to students, and I absolutely loved it. Fast forward to the launch of our Clifton Road Campus. I started teaching at the Clifton Campus in the kids ministry, and it became a highlight of my week. This created a passion for students.   Student ministry for me has bridged a lot of my passions—a passion for students, a passion for teaching, and a love for Jesus.

What are you hoping to see this year in MH Students?

I have a desire to partner with families. As a church and as a student ministry, we want to come alongside of parents, connect with them, and build meaningful relationships with them. I desire to see a parent partnership where Mercy Hill student ministry is providing opportunities to apply the gospel with students but also include parents to equip them on how to engage their student on issues of the day and how the gospel speaks to those.

I also desire to see more students connected. There’s a lot more students at Mercy Hill who are not currently connected to our student ministry. I have a desire to see more students plug-in because what we’re trying to do in student ministry here at Mercy Hill is help students to see how the gospel applies to their life right now.

One of my dreams is to see students come through our student ministry and plug directly into college ministry as growing disciples of Jesus. I’ve talked to our college director about this, and we want to train students as they come through our student ministry to understand what it means to leverage their college experience for the gospel. We want to see students who are shaped and molded by the gospel and understand how to live on mission as they transition into college.

Why should a student be a part of MH students?

We don’t see student ministry as a replacement for church. What we want to do is take what students are learning in the sermon each week and help them apply it to their context right now. “What does this mean for me as an athlete on my sports team,” or “What does this mean for whatever extracurricular activities?” We want to take the truths of what they’re learning and directly apply it to their lives and to live on mission.

We’re also going to have a ton of fun in the process. The student ministry team and I put a ton of effort into preparing a fun experience for our students. The most exciting life a student can live is a life lived for Jesus. We want our weekly gathering and all the events we do to reflect this reality.


If you’re a student and have not yet connected to MH Students, come join us for our Fall launch on Sunday night, August 27th. For more information about our student ministry please visit our MH Student page. And to contact Ronald you can email him at rredmond@mercyhillgso.com

What Flying Crocs Taught Me About the Gospel

Whish.

I felt the breeze coming off of a size 3 shoe as it flew by my head. Again.

This was the third time that Ryan[1] had become overpowered by the urge to launch a Croc grenade across the classroom to land in his brother’s lap. And after two attempts at correcting and redirecting this behavior, it was time for us to have a chat about it. We moved over to the side of the classroom and sat down across from one another. His head went down right away, but I wasn’t there to scold him. We talked for a little while about why it wasn’t safe to send our shoes sailing into a sea of our friend’s heads, but then I asked him why he was having such a hard time obeying his teachers when we asked him to stop. Exasperated, he looked up with teary eyes and said, “I don’t know why I can’t listen, it’s just so hard to keep the rules.”

The Similar Beat of Human Hearts

As he said it, I could feel my heart nodding in agreement. I realized that this conversation Ryan and I were having about his sin is the same one I have with God about my own sin all the time. And as Ryan sat there frustrated at how hard it is to keep his shoes on his feet, I could see the battle that wages in my own heart happening in his. It’s hard to choose to honor God when our rebellious hearts want to run the other direction.

In a sweet moment, Ryan and I got to pray together that God would help him say no to his sin and obey his teachers. We got to thank Jesus for living the perfect life so that when we mess up, God forgives us and doesn’t stay mad at us. Visibly relieved and with tears dried, Ryan scurried back over to join the class. We listened to the remainder of our lesson and, by God’s grace, all footwear stayed in its rightful place.

Depending on God Like a Child

Even hours after the service concluded, I continued to think back on our conversation and prayer time. Bad theology tries to teach us that God is only interested in our perfect discipline. We either become self-righteous in our ability to follow the rules externally, or devastated and despondent when we see our failure over-and-over again. It has taken me years to realize that in moments of weakness, my first move should be to ask for God’s help. I am created for a relationship with God that requires me to lean hard on his Spirit working inside me rather than white-knuckled attempts to clean up my own heart. God knows that we aren’t going to live perfectly, that’s why he wants our dependence. In the moments that I come to him as a child, vulnerable and helpless, he is always faithful to listen, forgive, restore, and lead me forward. It’s an exchange that doesn’t make sense in this world—my sin for the righteousness of Jesus—but Ryan and I are both learning that obedience grows from a heart that’s captured by this mystery of grace.

Our hope in Mercy Hill Kids is to help children learn dependence on God from the start. As we help them create these healthy rhythms in their walk with Jesus, it provides a consistent reminder of how I should approach the Lord in hard moments. Being a part of Kids Ministry teaches each of us so much about discipline, discipleship, and dependence. Each week it is a privilege to speak the gospel into the lives of these kids while the Lord uses them to speak into mine as well.

Kids Staff Member

[1] Name changed for safety of the child and sake of the parents.

Kids Week Recap

We can’t believe Kids Week is over! Our kids had an amazing time studying the life of Joseph and learning just how much the Savior of the world loves them. We had almost 500 kids join us last week and over 100 volunteers who committed to spreading the gospel to this next generation. 

We just want to give a huge shout out to everyone who gave up their time last week to pour into our kids lives. With in-house programming and two locations, we were able to reach more kids with gospel-centered truth than ever before. We are now praying for baptisms and life change to come from this event. Kids Week is for God’s glory, and we praise him for the incredible time we had. 


To check out all the photos from this week, click here

4 Things We Still Need from You for Kids Week

We can’t believe Kids Week is less than a week away! The pool noodles, Goldfish, and name tags are all getting put in place as we are expecting hundreds of kids to join us for a great week learning about the Magnificent One. You definitely don’t want to miss the kids’ trip to Tumbleweed Town during Kids Week 2017! If you haven’t gotten involved yet, here are the next steps for you:

1. Register your Child

There’s still room for your kids at Kids Week! Registering kids, team members, and checking out our donations list can all be done at http://mercyhillgso.com/kidsweek

2. Sign up to Serve

With so many kids, our team can always add more members! From parking cars to leading a group, every day is an opportunity to share the gospel with families. Even if you can’t be there all four days, we would love to have you join our team for Kids Week! Register to serve at http://mercyhillgso.com/kidsweek

3. Sign up to Donate

Hundreds of kids means thousands of Goldfish! The donations we make help Kids Week to be so successful! The biggest items we could use are Goldfish and water balloons. A full list of needed items can be found at mercyhillgso.com/kidsweek. For any and all donations, simply drop them off in the Kids Space at our worship services.

4. PRAY!

If God doesn’t move, then Kids Week is really just a fun event. But, we desire for it to be so much more as we know it can be a catalyst for a child coming to faith and being baptized. We know specific families who are now growing at Mercy Hill because they first joined us at Kids Week. We ask that you would pray that God would move in the hearts of kids, families, and team members, and that we would see life change that can be traced back to Kids Week 2017!

-Brant Gordon (Kids Ministry Director)

 

Kids Week 2017 from Mercy Hill Church on Vimeo.

All Hands on Deck! 4 Ways to Get Involved with Kids Week

Deuteronomy 6 is such a bedrock text in our church and family. We believe that raising children in the faith is about a culture of the home; a culture that hopefully will be defined by talking to God and about God all the time. Once a year at Mercy Hill we have an event that helps to catalyze that culture. Kids Week for us is an all-in/all hands on deck event in the life of our church. During this week we pour the love of Jesus into the kids of church and community at warp speed. For Mercy Hill, discipleship is all about family. We say that discipleship begins and ends in the home. So for us discipleship is not an event; however, events can be a major part of discipleship. During this week our kids will learn so much and hopefully have their desires for the church fanned into a flame. This in turn will give parents so much to build on, ask about, and work through at home.

Mercy Hill, the opportunity we have for kingdom growth during Kids Week is great. We do really need all hands on deck. There are so many ways to be involved with Kids Week through things like  prayer, set design, donating supplies, and volunteering. I hope you will see this opportunity for what it is: a chance to see the love of Jesus grow in the hearts of our little ones. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 19:14 that his desire is for the children to come to Him. Our prayer is that you would be moved to be involved.

Here are four ways you can be a part of Kids Week:

1. Bring your kids, your neighbor’s kids, and your neighbor’s friend’s kids

If you haven’t already signed up for Kids Week, do it right now by clicking here! Next, invite families you’re connected with (and even those that you’re not) to join us. Encourage your kids to invite their friends and classmates so that they might come and learn about Jesus with them.

2. Join a Kids Week team

There are opportunities for anyone and everyone to be a part of Kids Week. Be a leader in our snack station, work on the Design and Prep team, join the ranks of our security team, or lead a small group of kids throughout the week—every pair of hands helps us to accomplish our goal of sharing the gospel with excellence!

3. Donate supplies

In Kids Ministry, Dixie Cups and Goldfish make the world go ‘round. Donate a box of some needed supplies to help keep Kids Week a free opportunity for our families! The full donation list can be found here, and all items can be dropped off in the Kids Lobby during a service time.

4. Pray like crazy

Pray that God would use our teams to share Christ clearly and effectively with the kids who join us. Pray that the Holy Spirit would move in the games we play and the lessons we dive into, providing gospel conversations and decisions to follow Jesus. Finally, pray that our team leaders would have the energy and patience to care for their teams well and be bold in sharing their faith with these children.

-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)

Never Fear; We Have To Get Those Kids Here

Wow—Kids Week! Such an exciting time! I feel like folks think of vacation bible school (VBS) as another summer camp to keep their kids happy and entertained during the long summer days. And that is true in many ways. It’s a break, and we feel good that they are hearing about Jesus and getting snacks and playing games and running around getting their wiggles out so they’ll be quieter when they get home. But, there are so many more amazing and important things involved in Kids Week! I think it’s really important for us to remember, as we approach summer and Kids Week in particular, that it’s not about us and wearing our kids out and getting a break; it’s an opportunity to share Jesus and the incredible gift that was given to us through Him. It’s also a really great opportunity to encourage our kids to share that gift. I think there is no better way to get a kid to Kids Week, who knows nothing about church or Jesus or Christianity, than to hear about how amazing it is from another kid! They hear about the awesome snacks, fun games, and silly songs, and they’re hooked. (It’s even better if they have a card to give to their parent).  

Your Kids Have Gospel Potential

Our kids can be gospel givers, encouragers in Jesus, and sharers of his love! That’s a huge deal. We need to encourage and empower our children to understand that they are capable of changing a person’s entire life through Jesus. We can do that through praying for chances to talk to folks, praying for very specific people, and being willing to step out in faith. He gives us the power and boldness to share with our friends. Kids Week is that perfect opportunity.  

Generally, our kids are much bolder than us anyway. I sometimes cringe at the idea of asking someone about whether they go to church or have a relationship with Jesus. Our kids, though, will ask just about anything—really anything. And while that can be utterly embarrassing from time to time, I love that we can embolden them to ask their friends about Jesus, ask about church, and invite their friends to Kids Week who have never heard about any of it. I promise you that even though we live in the Bible Belt, there are loads of kids out there whose parents grew up in church and say they “believe in God,” and their children have no idea what God is about. Those parents don’t realize how much their children are missing. We can make the difference for them.

Don’t Fear Using Kids Week for Mission

Let’s pray with our kids that we, as parents, and they, as kids, will both have an incredible opportunity to invite folks to Kids Week. We parents can offer other parents that break that we initially think of, by taking their kids off their hands for a few hours in the morning for that week. We can offer to drive their kid to and from Kids Week—I mean, who can pass that up? We can make lunch dates with those kids and their parent after the activities of the day are done. We can get to know them better and allow the child to share what they’ve learned and the parent to see and experience the beauty of community within our church. Those things go a long way. They bring people in, both parents and kids! They see how we live differently and why.  

I love to see children encouraging children; being concerned about each other’s eternity. When a child starts to understand that this world is not about them, and they start taking action, it is truly incredible and glorifying to the Lord. Let’s help our children be life changers through Jesus. Come to Kids Week and bring all your friends!

Kari Wehe (A Mercy Hill Mom)