15th May 2018
“Can I pray with you?” Without a doubt this is one of my all time favourite questions! I always say yes when someone offers to pray with me. I’m so grateful for the empathy behind the question. My faith and hope are strengthened even before we pray.
Prayer is the most simple, most powerful ministry we can offer one another. You don’t need to be an expert. Keep it simple. Every believer is invited to pray.
Jesus said in Matthew 18 :20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
That’s quite a promise and an exciting prospect, I think. We are confident of the truth of this promise because we have the Holy Spirit working in us and among us.
So it’s great to see our Sunday morning prayer ministry slowly growing. There is nothing too big or too small to bring before God, so please if you want prayer come and receive it.
I have really enjoyed praying before the service too, with several of you, including some of the kids.
I’ve also been enjoying visiting our Merri Creek community groups. I’ve still got three to go. Let me encourage you not to skimp on prayer time as you gather in these groups. Maybe you can pray in pairs sometimes instead of the whole group. Start the group with prayer instead of ending it. Keep a record of your prayers and see how God is answering them. Prayer is saying yes to the most extraordinary invitation of God. To be in his presence and speak from the heart. Trusting him with your fears and sorrows and desires. Entrusting each other to him as well.
This Sunday I’ll be away with Inner North Youth Group at the VCYC weekend in Belgrave. I’ll be leading workshops about prayer. You could pray for us as we work on establishing lifelong patterns and passion for prayer. Thank you!
1st May 2018
There is a growing conviction and desire in our church to become more prayerful as a community
We come from a variety of different church traditions at Merri Creek. Some of us have been part of extraordinary prayer ministries in other places. I believe we have great potential to develop significant prayer ministries over time.
The dream is to grow together in prayerful dependence on God, or to “pray without ceasing” as Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16. But what prayer practices will prove helpful and most natural for our community? What will suit the personality of our church?
Before we start anything brand new let’s build on what’s already in place. The best way to form good habits is to attach them to existing practices. We also need to ensure we are faithfully praying for the particular ministries of our church and our mission partners.
Here are four ways to do this:
1. Pray on the job
Whenever you’re involved in a ministry of the church, pray, alone or with others involved. Every act of service big or small is ministry. Ask God to be at work drawing people to faith and pray for each other. Afterwards give thanks for what you have seen happening.
2. Community groups
I’d love each of our community groups to choose and pray regularly for one of our church ministry programs or mission partners. To adopt a ministry, seek out specific prayer points for it and become prayerfully concerned. As you hear how God is at work in your chosen area you’ll be encouraged and able to celebrate God’s goodness together.
3. Monthly Prayer Meeting Team
It would be great to see a team of committed people (10-20 of us) regularly attending the monthly church prayer meeting at the Yu’s home in Northcote.
We meet for an hour and pray for the ministries of the church and for each individual at Merri Creek Anglican.
This meeting has now been moved to the fourth Monday evening of the month to help people with Thursday church commitments come and join us.
Please let me know if you’d like to be part of this group to this and I will give you more details.
4. Sunday Prayer
On Sunday mornings we always have a circle of chairs set up in the front corner of the hall. Anyone is welcome to come and pray before the service from 9:15am onwards. We want to pray each week for our gathering, for people to come and join us, for the Holy Spirit to be at work in us, and for any other concerns that come up.
We also have a people ready to pray for you at the end of the service. Please make use of this ministry! There is nothing too big or small for us to bring to our loving God.
This will move us more into the practice of faithfully praying for one another.
I’ll be writing more about prayer in my next post … coming soon.
20th March 2018
A big thank you for the beautiful flowers, gifts and kind words (especially from the kids) last Sunday. It was such an encouraging way to finish in the role of children’s minister. I will cherish the little pats on the back I received from small hands during my commissioning prayer (when laying on of hands occurred). It made me smile and was great reminder that our kids are people of faith with gifts for building up our church. I am keen to include them in my thinking about enhancing our current ministries and starting new ministries at Merri Creek Anglican. I hope you will be patient with me as I get a handle on new things to do and make mistakes along the way.
12th March 2018
I wanted to take the opportunity to say what a great privilege (and immense fun) it has been to work as the Children’s minister over the past 3 and 1/4 years at Merri Creek Anglican. Thank you for entrusting me with this ministry.
Our Merri Creek Kids are a wonderful group of people. From the first week I arrived at church they have been a great source of joy to me. I have learned so much alongside them as we’ve read the Bible together, asked our questions, grappled with life in inner north Melbourne and played and created all kinds of amazing projects together. I look forward to seeing them continue growing in God’s grace under Richard’s leadership.
Three years isn’t that long really; but in the life our kids it’s pretty significant. Half of the children are now at school and one quarter attend Kinder. This means many of them have moved from learning through storytelling and play, to engaging with concepts and stories at a deeper and more personal level. They are far more sophisticated in their socialisation. Their earnest faith is already evident. I am praying for the kids leaders and parents as they encourage them to remain steadfast in Jesus.
I’m excited about the next chapter of kids ministry at our church, and the new work I will begin soon.
Please pray for Richard and myself as we complete handover and get started in our new roles.
27th FEBRUARY 2018
Family Routines for a Robust Faith – Part 5 (Final)
How can we encourage our kids to be more like Jesus and live out their faith in him? One way is to encourage them to serve others. At church we encourage the older kids to look out for the younger ones. We hear about our mission partners and find ways to encourage them and pray for them.
A great thing for families and households to do is to think of ways to serve others together. You might join a roster at church, or planning for and serving morning tea together on Sunday, or setting up chairs for the service, or helping set up and pack down the kids program. Perhaps your family could lead the prayers one week.
There are lots of opportunities in our community to help out too: at Kinder or school, or maybe someone in your neighbourhood needs help in the garden or the friendship of your family.
It’s great to remember too that Jesus cared for the poor and the marginalised. Perhaps you could save money from a meal out and eat rice for one meal every couple of weeks to give to the TEAR Dhumba project (or something similar)? By doing this you will learn together to have eyes for the bigger picture and hearts to serve others. Jesus the King of all the world came not be served but to serve. We want to follow him!
In the same vein I’ve been thinking that it is a sign of God’s topsy-turvy kingdom that I will be handing over the Sunday children’s ministry to Richard Boonstra in the coming weeks. Richard is a very experienced educator, school principal and parent. He has been a Christian for many years. I’m sure there are a whole host of different opportunities he could take up now in his working life. As a parent I’m very thankful that he has chosen to take up serving the Merri Creek Kids and families!
In Matthew 19 :13-14 Jesus was clear that children are very important to God and not to be overlooked. They are to be seen as examples of kingdom people: trusting and eager to be welcomed by Jesus. They deserve the best care and ministry we have to offer.
I definitely think we are doing this in appointing Richard. It would be great pray for him as he serves us as Children’s minister.
20th FEBERUARY 2018
Family Routines for a Robust Faith – Part 4
How do you tell your own story? For Christians, Jesus is at the heart of our lives and so it is fair to assume that he would feature in the narrative we share with others.
Sharing God’s goodness towards us with our kids will help them to consider and expect God to also be at work in their lives. They will follow your example, acknowledging and honouring God in their stories.
Perhaps you realise that you are in the habit of either compartmentalising (not seeing that God is present in all parts of your life) or of not speaking about God’s part in your story. If so then it’s not too late to make a shift in this area. It will be good for your own faith and for your kids’ as well.
When you come together as a family at the end of a day, talk about what has happened and notice the good things, relationships, comfort and leading of God in your lives. Also remember together how God loves you so much that he sent his Son Jesus into the world so we can know him and become part of his big family.
It may sound something like this: “I had such a busy day. It was crazy at work, but I then I remembered that God is in control and so even though I didn’t finish everything I felt a whole lot calmer about it.” Or: “I was so happy to see you talking to Zoe at school this afternoon. I thank God you have found a friend you really can talk to at school.” Or: “I know I was a bit grumpy this morning when we were trying to get to church on time, but once we got there it was great to be with Gods family. Would someone please remind me of this next Sunday when I’m grumpy again!”
You may think it seems strange and awkward to speak like this. Yes, at first it may be. After a while however you may find it strange not to do speak of Jesus when you speak of yourself. It makes sense that we speak of our Creator and Saviour. He is part of your story. He is at the heart of your family’s story. Practice at home and it will probably start to spill out into other conversations as well.
Proverbs 3:6 says “In all your ways acknowledge the Lord and he will make straight your paths.” We can help our kids to do this from the start!
13th FEBRUARY 2018
Family Routines for a Robust Faith – Part 3
On Sunday we had about 50 children in our service. This is a lot of young ones to teach and encourage in their faith.
At Merri Creek we try to do this two ways on a Sunday. Firstly through our kids program in the library. Secondly by encouraging the kids to participate in the first 10 minutes of the service with their parents or the adult carer they have come to church with. Those 10 minutes are deliberately not geared towards the children specifically. We want them to look and learn what it is to be part of church for everyone. There is a pattern of singing, confessional prayer (saying sorry to God) and greeting other people that they can learn and gradually join in with.
From time to time the kids contribute to the service too. They might lead the prayers or do a mission spot or announcement. This also helps them to see themselves as part of the whole church community.
There has been lots of thinking about how to help kids grow into teenagers and then young adults who continue to engage with the church community. Notably some people leave the church once there is no longer a kids or youth program catering for their own age group. So it is important to give kids the message that the whole church service is for them as well, not something they have to get through before they are invited upstairs. We often underestimate their ability to engage with whats going on, but more often that not, once the routine is established, kids will be able to sit still and participate to some degree.
My top tips for helping your children to engage in the Sunday service are:
We are a community of people who want to see these wonderful kids grow up to love and serve Jesus for their whole life. Let’s help each other as we persist in drawing them into the business of gathering and worshipping God together each Sunday.
6th FEBRUARY 2018
Family Routines for a Robust Faith – Part 2
Last week I wrote my first idea for growing young families in faith. As well as establishing a daily Bible reading routine at home, connecting with other families for Bible reading and prayer will widen the circle and model to kids that faith is not a private thing, but part of being in church community. Our family community groups aim to do this.
By meeting together with several other families once a month (at least) for a meal and bible study and prayer, your kids will get the picture that you take your faith seriously and that you belong to a bigger family: God’s family. Parents will also be encouraged in their faith. I love hearing stories of how the kids in these groups are becoming good friends and imitating their parents and friends parents faith. Its a slow, chaotic process I know, but well worth the effort over time.
I recommend reading Parenting Beyond your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof if you want to think more about this.
If you don’t belong to a family community group and would like to, please let me know so we can connect you in.
If you have time to read this article it is great food for thought. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/parents-take-note-spiritual-practices-common-kids-flourish-adults/ It outlines the key spiritual practices in the family that make all the difference for people growing up with a vibrant and enduring faith. They are not necessarily what you expect!
2 FEBRUARY 2018
Family Routines for a Robust Faith – Part 1
It’s a big week for many families sending kids back to school and Kinder, or for the first time. We have 10 Merri Creek kids starting prep this week. Our Monday and Thursday playgroups start this week and next. Please get in touch of you’d like more information.
As we get back into the normal patterns of life and establish routines for homework and extra activities and family time, it would be great to think about the routines you have for growing your family in faith this year. I’m going to give you some ideas about how to do this over the next couple of emails.
Firstly, make a time each day to read the Bible and pray as a family. Attach it to an already established routine. Our family has read the Bible and prayed at breakfast each school day for over a decade now. I never imagined we could do this, but because we do sit down and eat together in the morning it works! You might try this at dinner, or as part of a bedtime routine. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just read a story from a picture Bible with young kids, or a passage from he Bible with older kids.
Talk about it if you wish and answer any questions, then pray. Sometimes it will be a struggle to do this, other times it will be a great joy. Like anything, if you keep going it will become a habit, and a wonderful gift to your kids as they learn that reading God’s word and talking to him is a normal daily activity. They will see your faith in action too. More next week!