Just a few more pics of the awesome FX program last Friday!
Here are just a few pictures from our Back-To-School FX on Friday. 1300 people gathered on the NewSpring campus to celebrate the end of the summer with pony rides, petting zoo, inflatable, face painting, balloon twisting, and awesome treats. Our program featured some awesome music, games and fun learning about the Big Idea of Obedience. As a bonus, 18 kids went public with their faith through baptism. It is fantastic to see so many families who want to spend time together learning about God’s Big Ideas!
All summer long, kids in Baby Bay and Adventure Avenue are learning about the days of creation with the theme Creation Station. Tomorrow, July 14, they get a chance to celebrate what they have learned at Camp Splish Splash. It’s an event for kids from age 1 through Kindergarten and their parents. It all happens on the NewSpring campus. It’s totally free but you must register for a time slot. There is still availability at the 7 p.m. slot so click here to register now. This is a great way to find out what your kids have been learning and meet some of their amazing leaders. Hope to see you there!
PS–In the case of inclement weather, we will move outdoor activities inside.
I want to first take the opportunity to thank all of you who have congratulated me on my new position. I have been overwhelmed with NewSpring’s kindness as so many of you have gone out of your way to welcome and encourage me with this new adventure. I could not be more excited. So as I begin this adventure serving families of children with special needs, I will do so in “The NewSpring Way.” That is, recognizing we are all about the people outside the doors of our church… and relying on the skill of great volunteers.
Pastor Mark often talks about the people outside the doors of NewSpring that need our love and attention. One of my favorite parts of my job is meeting new families at the check-in station and being with their children through the end of each service. I love watching their faces as we drop off kids to different environments and they understand how each one is designed with their child in mind. I love being able to talk about the programs or accommodations that we offer that were designed for their child who has exceptionalities.
Secondly, I truly do believe that NewSpring is great largely due to its culture of volunteering. Volunteering has been a great experience for my family. One of the best things that it has done is connect our family with other people like us. It truly shrinks a huge church so that you feel connected as you see familiar faces in the crowd.
I am blessed to be able to work with amazing volunteers in our special needs ministry. I have incredibly patient volunteers that love telling the Bible story five times because their ADHD child has the attention span of about two minutes before they are distracted, yet a minute later wants to know how the story finishes. I love that I have volunteers that want to partner with the parents of autistic children in developing a structured and predictable worship service so their child can learn and thrive. They take a genuine interest in their complicated lives and share the parents’ concerns as needs arise. This is a community of people who want to share God’s love with a unique population, and experience huge smiles and happy hearts along the way.
NewSpringers are blessed by the “worship one, serve one” motto, as volunteers are passionate not only about their serving, but also their worshipping. As a NewSpringer and God follower, I share in this passion. Luke 1:74 says “We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without FEAR, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.” My worship reminds me that I have been rescued from my enemy and fears. God calls us to courageously love others. This is an action of pouring out God’s kindness and generosity to those outside our building doors. This is the way of the NewSpring volunteer.
Seems like we’ve all had that moment, the moment that comes after high school graduation and you wonder…what’s next? Everyone is asking you what’s your plan? Are you going to college? What are you going to do with your life? And you try to give them your best answer, but deep down inside you just aren’t sure who you are supposed to be. People begin to tell you what they think you should be and in that moment, it can seem like everyone has a plan for your life except you.
Like most of us, this is what happened to me. I graduated high school in 2015 and needless to say I was excited for the next chapter in my life. But I had a lot of uncertainty as well. For me, I’ve always wanted to become what the Lord wanted me to become. That’s just who I am. It’s never been about making a lot of money or having a bunch of fancy stuff. Mostly because I know that a life with the Lord is going to bring me more purpose and joy then money could ever buy me.
So my plan after high school was to go to college for physical therapy with the hopes of eventually opening my own clinic. Now, I wasn’t led by God toward this decision. They told me to choose a path so I did. It was simply something I could see myself doing. In reality though, it is hard to make a decision on what you want to do with the rest of your life when you’re only 18 years old. I think when God figured out my plans, He laughed a little bit because God had way bigger plans in mind. God has been preparing me and equipping me for what He wants me to do for quite some time.
I’ve been so blessed with parents that love the Lord and have raised me in that love. I’ve had the privilege of going to a private Christian school from K-12. I’ve been in church my whole life and have actually been through the KidzWorld ministry where I now work. I have been so incredibly blessed to grow up the way I have and don’t take this blessing for granted. Before I worked at KidzWorld, I volunteered there for 5 years. On my first day of volunteering in KidzWorld, I had no idea what it would become. To be honest, it was just something to do while my parents were busy. It quickly became something so much more. I remember the first time I ever took a small group and how nervous I was leading those kids. I remember the first time they asked me to go camp as a leader and take care of 10 kids for four days. I remember the first time they asked me to be a part of praise team and help lead the kids in worship. I remember the first time they asked me to help on stage as a comic host. I remember the first time they asked me to tell the Bible story. All of these things, though nerve racking, have helped make me the man that I am now. It’s true when they say you grow the most when you’re uncomfortable. Not only was God using those things for His plan, but even things like my personality and the different skills that the Lord has given me. The Lord built me from the inside out for His plan. All of these things have been pointing me in the direction that the Lord was taking me. Now that I look back on my life and the experiences that I have encountered, it seems so clear. There wasn’t a day that went by that God wasn’t building me for my part in His plan.
If you are uncertain on who you are supposed to be, I want to encourage you today. I believe that if you follow the Lord and truly want what He wants for your life, He is going to get you where He wants you to be. My life has changed so much in a year. I had no idea that God would one day use me to affect hundreds of kids in a positive way. A verse that really helped me when I was uncertain about who I was supposed to be was Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Every day, I get to see a little bit more of God’s plan for my life. And If God can use me, He can use you too.
The toddlers were sitting in a semi-circle eating their snacks. The teacher held up a Bible and asked, “Do you know what this is?” One little girl, with an enthusiastic voice and raised arms, shouts “BIBLE!” Some of the other toddlers repeated it.
A seed has been planted! And that excites us in Baby Bay! Some may comment, “She was just mimicking the adults.” “She is too young.” “She doesn’t really understand what the Bible is.” No, she isn’t ready to fully understand and accept Jesus as her Savior, BUT she is more than ready to begin learning. As I mentioned – a seed has been planted. It’s now up to the parents, and the church partnering with them, to cultivate and nurture that seed as she grows up and learns more about the Bible and Jesus.
Coming to know God is a lifelong process and believe it or not, our journey of faith begins at birth. Some will even say before birth. Research is finding that babies in the womb are hearing (and possibly understanding) more than previously thought. Did you know that the brain begins developing in the first trimester?
“The first three years of a child’s life are uniquely important because this is the most sensitive period for brain development. The experiences a child has during this time will shape the architecture of her brain and build the connections that allow her to develop lifelong skills like problem-solving, communication, self-control, and relationship building.” Zero to Three
So what better time to start teaching your child about the Bible. Infants start to form associations about everything else in their little world, so why not take this time to also introduce them to God and Jesus? Think about this example: a child may not fully comprehend who “Grandma” is—especially one that lives far away and the child has never met. However, you want them to know their Grandma, so you start talking about her and you refer to her from day one. It’s similar with the awareness of God. Just as your child will learn to take your word that Grandma is an important part of their life, they can also learn to take your word for it that God is also an important part.
So where am I going with this? Children begin to form their image of God as infants. Parents who are loving and dependable help develop their child’s feelings of trust. Their faith grows as they learn to trust. Then we, as a church, partner with these parents. These children are not only a blessing to their families, they are a blessing to the church. The care your child receives in the nursery will also have an impact on their faith development. It starts when a familiar face greets your baby and calls them by name. When the nursery caregiver rocks your baby, sings to your baby, talks to your baby, and feeds your baby they are showing your child God’s love and building trust.
Baby Bay Nursery is more than just a “babysitting” service. Along with home, the nursery is where faith development starts to form and be nurtured. Jesus didn’t turn away the children. In fact, he told his disciples that they must humble themselves and become like little children (Luke 18:17; Mark 10:15). Parents have a great impact on teaching their children of Jesus. The Bible tells us Timothy learned from infancy about Jesus from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 3:15)
In the Baby Bay Nursery, we start with the infants (newborns – 6 months) by building their trust, building their spiritual vocabulary and showing them God’s love through meeting their needs, singing to them, and loving them. Then in the crawlers (7 months – 11 months), we build on this by introducing them to the Bible, building more on their spiritual vocabulary, and familiarizing them with the name of Jesus. As toddlers (12 months – 17 months) and cruisers (18 months – 23 months), their faith foundation is continued with trustworthy routines as we play, pray, sing, tell Bible stories, and interact with the children. In Baby Bay we, along with their parents/guardians, plant the seeds of their faith development. As your children develop and mature, and with continuing partnership between home and church, those seeds are nurtured and grow as they continue learning through KidzWorld.
Everything we teach your children in Baby Bay is based on one of three simple, yet influential, truths.
- God made them.
- God loves them.
- Jesus wants to be their friend forever
The curriculum we use is created to meet your children where they are cognitively, spiritually, physically, emotionally, as well as socially. Using age appropriate activities, we are assisting you in planting the seeds to build their spiritual foundation. So bring your babies to Baby Bay Nursery and let us partner with you.
By the way, the toddler, mentioned in the first paragraph is now 2 years old. She started in the Baby Bay nursery when she was only a few weeks old (the seed was planted). She has been brought to church nearly every weekend of her life. Her parents use the Bible and the Parent Cue app to reinforce what is taught at church. She is learning to pray. She is learning Bible verses. She is learning God loves her and more. The seed is being nurtured and is growing!
When my youngest child was 4, he loved to sing songs while riding in the car. I remember him belting out the lyrics to one particular song “We Fall Down” by Kutless. The words read “We fall down, we lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus” … but in the rear view mirror I could see him giving it all he had as he innocently sang these words, “We fall down, we lay our crayons at the feet of Jesus.” I smiled and was about to correct him but then thought to myself, “I think Jesus would love it if a 4-year-old would give Him his crayons.” After all, that’s what was important to him at the time. And Jesus loves it when we place these important items at His feet, because it shows we love Him.
I have the joy of working with children age 2 through Kindergarten every weekend and I get to hear the most creative, humorous things from them. Their hearts are so big and they are very ‘matter-of-fact’ about things. You will never meet someone more brutally honest than a 4-year-old. They see things through vivid imaginations and always want to know “Why?” Pretend play and games are their means of communication and they want their parents’ attention as much as they can get it. So if you are a parent of a preschooler, here’s my advice: give it to them. This phase of their life is so short and they crave time with you, whether it’s playing dress-up while having tea and cookies or building a giant robot out of Legos or cardboard boxes. Go ahead and turn off that TV and instead play catch outside, teach them how to play ‘go fish’, or simply go for a bike ride. These are the moments your preschooler will ‘talk your ear off’, but cherish it. Soon they will be in school, talking to teachers and making new friends. Your role as a parent during these early years is key to how they develop relationships in the future.
My 4-year-old who sang that song (that I still remember so well) is now almost 11, and his conversations have changed quite a bit. He still asks “Why?” questions, but it doesn’t stop after that one word. The games he plays are all competitive and he hates to lose. He is facing middle school in one more year and the world is going to throw all kinds of falsehoods at him. I know that his faith will be tested, but I also know that he has been given a strong foundation in God’s love. We (his parents) have been able to partner with a church that loves kids, and works hard to instill God’s truth in them every week. He is learning that the world does not revolve around him, which is contrary to society’s message that “it’s all about me.” He currently serves younger kids on the weekend and is helping them see a God who:
- Made them,
- Loves them, and
- Wants to be their friend forever.
When children understand and believe these three basic truths, they have the foundation they need to grow and love a God who desires their love in return.
And when your child is older – like mine, instead of laying crayons at His feet, he will be ready to lay down whatever crown is important to him at that time — whether its sports, video games, or selfish pride. But for now, enjoy your preschooler – it’s a phase that goes by very quickly.
August Joseph Mahannah. Sarah and I had decided on the name when we found out we were pregnant the first time. But God blessed us with a girl for our first child and we knew, especially I knew, that we loved Elizabeth Kate for a girl. I loved the name Elizabeth because it is Sarah’s middle name and my hope for our family was that if we had a daughter she would grow up to be like her mother. But August Joseph was perfect for a boy. Sarah’s grandpa August Kubish passed away the day before our wedding. August was a pastor and a patriarch to a great big friendly family. Even though I didn’t know him well, his legacy in his children speaks for itself. It’s an honor that my son carries his name.
Joseph was my grandpa on my dad’s side. He was a World War 2 veteran who lost his two brothers to the war. He was the last Mahannah boy. My grandmother has told me many times of how my great granddad and my Grandpa Joe had high hopes that Joe would have a boy to carry on the Mahannah name. Joe ended up having a girl. And then another girl. And then finally a son. That son, my dad, had four sons and one girl. The legacy of the Mahannah name lives on through those boys and my grandma has told me many times, Great Grandpa Doc would be proud. As one of those Mahannah boys, I’m proud of that and it was an honor to name my first son Joseph.
Legacy is a powerful thing. You may not know me or my family at all but I’m guessing the themes that run through the paragraphs above strike a chord with you. Maybe for you it’s the legacy of your family or maybe it’s the legacy of someone else who stepped up and made a difference in your life somehow.
I think the reason why this idea of legacy has been bouncing around my head like an echo since the birth of my son and the reason why it seems to resonate with most people is because we all intuitively know that we’ll leave a legacy of our own. So then, as I lay awake at night in my tired-sleep-deprived-parent-of-a-newborn-state I find myself contemplating, what’s my legacy?
This idea resonated with me at our recent Baby Dedication at NewSpring. I stood up with about 50 other families who were dedicating themselves to raise kids who love God and love others and I thought, “This is my dedication to leave a legacy that matters.” As Sarah and I prepared for August’s dedication, we discussed what we hoped for our kids.
We want to raise a strong daughter who’s compassionate and loving. We want to raise a humble man of God who is honest and holds tight to his integrity. We want both of our kids to be brave and courageous enough to follow God anywhere. We want them to passionately love God and love others.
I’m guessing if you’re a parent, an aunt, an uncle, or if you’re invested in the lives of kids as a volunteer for KidzWorld or another ministry, you want that for the kids you impact. But at the risk of getting too personal, another haunting thought creeps into my mind. If I want these things for my kids, they need to be found in me. Along with this realization comes a second and more powerful one. Just as my children will learn respect from me, they’ll learn disrespect as well. In my moments of courage, they might take note and but surely the same is true for my moments of cowardice.
Every parent has this fear, right? Every parent hopes they won’t mess it up? A whole lot of being a parent is praying that your kids don’t screw up and praying that you don’t screw up your kids! This is where I find that my legacy, my most powerful legacy, has less to do with my character, it has less to do with my strengths or weaknesses, but rather everything to do with my faith.
This summer we’re talking about Faith with the kids in Route 252. I love how it’s defined, too. We’re defining it for our 1st through 4th graders as: Believing that what Jesus did can change me. At the end of the day our Faith comes down to one person, Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the cross and in His resurrection. The story of Jesus changes everything and it has changed, indeed it was the only thing that ever could or ever would change me.
That’s my legacy. I don’t have to be the perfect parent (my strongly opinionated two-year-old diva of a daughter could tell you that) and I’m not even a good parent; the goodness in my life and in my parenting comes from the work of Jesus in my life and in my parenting. There’s a verse we go over in Baby Dedication and I think it sums up this idea perfectly for us struggling and maybe even scared parents. It comes out of Deuteronomy 6.
Sorry to jump around on you but this is story is actually pre-Jesus showing up. Deuteronomy is a great book where a man named Moses, is leading a group of people called the Israelites. The Israelites were God’s chosen people, and “spoiler alert” if you haven’t thumbed through the rest of the Bible, the Israelites were a big part of God’s plan to bring Jesus on the scene. Moses is getting a whole generation back on the right track and telling them how to have a great relationship with God. He starts off in verse 2, talking about legacy–talking about what the lives of Israelites kids and grandkids can be like years down the road. Then he gets to the specifics in verse 5 with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” By the way, Jesus would say later this was the most important thing that when we love God, we love others. All great love relationships start with trust, which is why I mad–and maybe you made–a decision to start loving God by trusting in Jesus.
But as Moses gets to verses 7 through 9, he says something about this “Loving God” commandment and the others that follow, something about the aspects of their faith that initially might sound intimidating but in the end I find quite freeing. “Impress them 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.”
Moses names nearly every possible scenario. Not just church, but like…everything…all the time? I don’t know about you but most days I don’t feel like Super Dad let alone Super Duper Bible Dad. How am I supposed to teach my kids all about faith all the time? But I think that’s the beautiful thing about legacy. That’s the beautiful thing about faith. This summer will have an adventure theme in 252 to go along with our Big Idea of Faith. We’ll talk about how Faith is a journey. Faith isn’t a PART of your life, Faith SHAPES your life. The verses in Deuteronomy don’t mean you have all the answers, which is great because honestly I don’t. It just shows that great legacies are made by the journeys of faith that both shape my character and produce respect, honesty and integrity but also the journeys of faith that bring me through the valley of my own failure and into the comfort of God’s amazing grace.
So in conclusion, as I try to stitch all these ideas together, the thing that I rest in is that my kids may inherit my firm conviction that “honesty is the best policy” and my daughter might pick up the bad habit of saying “Dang-it!” when she stubs her toe (if you’ve been a parent of a two-year old, you know that you literally can’t say ANYTHING without it being repeated). But at the end of the day, the legacy I know I can leave for my kids and that I pray they adopt into their own lives is that Jesus changed the world and He changed me.
I have a confession to make: I am terrified of mice. I did not know this about myself until I saw once recently and fully understood what it meant to be “frozen in fear”. My heart was beating fast and I was light-headed and all I wanted to do was get. out. of. that. room. but I couldn’t move! I was stuck.
Fear. It’s amazing how that one tiny, four-letter word is responsible for nightmares and sleepless nights and worry and, let’s be honest, probably a lot of avoidable injuries. Fear is why chances aren’t taken, goals aren’t reached, and lives aren’t lived to their full potential. Fear is often an incomparably adversary because, more often than not, safety is our biggest motivator.
I live in the world of preschoolers where imagination and possibility are never in short supply and where safety reigns supreme. These kids want to know they are safe. It’s why they cry when Mom or Dad leaves them. It’s why they are scared of thunderstorms and the dark. It’s why they hide behind their parents when they meet someone new. Their (very) active imagination gives them endless ideas on where Mommy and Daddy went without them that might be better than being with them. It makes the monsters in the dark very real because that chair really could be a monster in disguise waiting for the lights to go out to hurt them. You say it’s thunder but what if it’s not? What if it’s a giant living in the sky? The people that you are smiling at while trying to pry them away from your legs could be aliens from another planet, waiting to take them away.
(I spend a lot of time in imagination-land.)
As adults, we see their fears as trivial. We love them and want to help them, but we know there really is nothing to be afraid of. We don’t understand because we know that nothing’s hiding in the dark and that the thunder is really just the sound of lightning. But they don’t know that. They are too small, too wrapped up in the worlds they’ve created to understand that.
But here’s what is so cool about these little humans—they face their fears anyway. The kids I get the pleasure of working with are some of the bravest. They face that scary dark every night. (Granted they might need a night light or end up in Mom and Dad’s bed every once in a while, but they still do it.) They reach their hand out and make friends with that new person. They decide to have fun while Mommy and Daddy are gone, despite the fact that they may never come back. Every day, these kids are choosing bravery over fear. Why? Because they know the outcome and reward—the fun, the sweet dreams, the new friends—far outweigh any momentary fear they might feel. They choose risk over safety because they refuse to let fear hold them back. They might not articulate it like that, but we can see it in their actions: they jump off high places just for the chance they might fly; they say hello to complete strangers; they run faster, they push harder, they swing higher because once they push past the fear there is adventure and fun and joy. They are decorated with scraped knees and bruised heads and war stories that prove boldness won out. Ask any kid about their Bandaids and they will not tell you how scared they were but about how much fun they had getting those bumps and bruises! What they’re really saying?
It was worth it.
Our fears are a little bit bigger though, aren’t they? Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of being wrong. Those are some big fears. When we’re in the middle of them, facing them, having to deal with them, it can seem overwhelming. But just like we know children have nothing to be afraid of, God whispers to us the same thing—even our biggest fears seem small to God. He already knows what He wants to do in our lives. He already knows how it’s all going to turn out. God knows that we don’t have to be afraid of failure or of rejection or being wrong or, really, of anything! 2 Timothy 1:7 says,
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Whoa. Let’s take a minute and just let that sink in. God did not give us a spirit of fear. So that fear that you’re feeling? It’s just Satan trying to steal your joy, steal your hope, and steal the purpose that God has placed in your heart. That’s all fear is—it’s nothing more than a scheme to keep us from doing what God has asked us to do.
So what is it you’re afraid of?
Maybe it’s a dream that has long been forgotten that God wants you to pick up again.
Maybe it’s a relationship that needs to be restored.
Maybe it’s a stranger you need to reach out to.
Let’s take a tip from our kids and push past the fear. Maybe the safest place we can be is out in the unknown where God has called us. Because when we realize that we are so incredibly loved by the God of the universe who created us and who wants great things for us, who has made a plan for our lives and will carry it out until it is finished, when we realize that He will never leave us or abandon us and He is more faithful than we could ever understand, when we realize that with God anything is possible and He can do much more than we can think or imagine, we are left with only one question: What do we have to lose?
That’s what we here at NewSpring are teaching our preschoolers: You can be brave because God will never leave you. God loves you. God made you. Jesus wants to be your friend forever. God has a plan for you. God can do the impossible. We tell these things to the kids over and over again because when they start believing them, fear no longer has any control. They can be exactly who God made them to be because they trust Him. They can do anything God asks them to do because they believe Him. They can step out in faith in even the scariest circumstances because they know that, even in the deepest waters, God is right there with them.
When we push past our fears, we experience the same things kids do: Adventure. Fun. Joy. We experience the kind of life God always intended us to have. I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life outside my comfort zone, outside of the boundaries of “safety” I have created for myself. I want to live a life where my faith is stretched and limits are pressed and I see God do things that only He can do.
There is always something to be afraid of—a big decision, a life-altering change, the unknown. But when we understand and begin believing that God made us and loves us and wants great things for us, when we begin to understand that perfect love casts out all fear then what else do we have to be afraid of?
If you’re quiet, and let yourself be still, you’ll hear the answer: