Christmas without consumerism

I think back to when I was a kid. Christmas was a time when I felt the sacred; a very close connection with God. Because of the story, but also because of the traditions we had, it felt very special. Are there things we can do every year with our children that have a special ritual quality to them? Things that help children engage with the sacred, the specialness of Christmas, that goes beyond the consumerism? You could have a special meal on Christmas Eve that explores the Christmas story so you’re not just waiting for presents. Maybe you could introduce a family nativity if your family is dramatic. Maybe you could sing, or you could invite your neighbours around for special games and fun.

Alex Taylor is resources editor for Premier Youth and Children’s Work.

Sowing into tiny lives

There aren’t any guarantees. When our children are small we think if we read the right books and go to all the stuff it will be fine, but sometimes it’s not. Great parents sometimes have children who break their heart. And I’ve met many parents who are under an incredible load of guilt. Even God has trouble with his children. Nevertheless, these early years are very precious. Put everything into your kids while they’re little because right now they think you’re brighter than Einstein and holier than the vicar! But a day is coming when they’ll think you’re the stupidest person on the face of the earth. When is that day? Their 13th birthday. Then the power of the peer group comes in and you’d better be sure you’ve put good stuff into their lives when they’re small. What we sow into their lives when they’re 2 will affect their theology for the rest of their lives.

Rob Parsons is founder of Care for the Family.

How do we worship in the midst of miscarriage?

I’m married to an awesome girl called Mes who also works for Worship Central. We’ve been through two miscarriages this year, and that’s been super hard for us. The thing I would encourage people to do in the midst of all that mess is to bring it to Jesus. It’s always amazing to look to friends and healthcare professionals – depending on what you’re walking through – but Jesus is the ultimate healer and close to the broken, and he’s no stranger to pain.

Josh Gauton is a worship leader with Worship Central.

Sport or church?

I’ve got three boys and when they want to do sport on a Sunday I don’t see it as competition. I ask God: “Why am I allowing my child to play or not play, and how am I communicating, and how am I involving them in that choice?” We need to see Sunday sports as a mission field.

Warren Murray is head of Sports Chaplaincy UK.

No child is unadoptable

I’ve been married to Michelle for 14 years. We have a really big table in our dining room, and for many years it was just the two of us. We couldn’t have our own children but we felt passionately that we didn’t want this table to stay empty, so we started a journey through adoption.

It took a while, but we now have two lovely boys and they fill the table. It’s a very different table now; it’s very loud, it’s very boisterous. Nevertheless, two lads have very different lives from what they used to have. Our lives have been turned upside down in a really good way.

When we started the process there was this idea that when you get to 8 or 9 you’re unadoptable. We felt that no child – no person – is unadoptable, so we went for a sibling pair who were older. We felt they deserved to be together.

Tom Rutter launched Kick London, a Christian sports ministry, and is a chaplain at Christ’s School in Richmond.

Self-care as parents

Self-care is such a big problem among parents, and as a working parent you have two-and-a-half full-time jobs! Ways to self-care are really personal to you. I know for me I need a lie down with a cup of tea. Do whatever makes you feel like you. It’s important not to feel like you’re being selfish because you can’t help others if you’re not well yourself. I would really encourage you to take a moment to think what you can do for yourself this week.

Lily Jo is a Manchester-based singer-songwriter, a qualified counsellor and founder of the Lily Jo Project.

The power of storytelling

Eugene Peterson said our lives are storyshaped. Whenever we tell people about our lives we are telling a story. I feel God has made us that way. A story is a seed, and a seed has incredible power. So you read a story to a child and it is planting a seed. And the thing about a seed is that it works when it’s left alone; when it’s in the dark and is given space and room. It may be a long time before you know what’s going on with that seed, and that’s how I feel about stories. They’re so powerful, and it’s almost none of our business what God does with that story and that child. Our job is to tell the best stories we can.

Sally Lloyd-Jonesis an award-winning children’s author of many books, including The Jesus Storybook Bible.