Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   ~Matthew 6: 19-21

This time of year, social media is filled with pictures of students dressed in their best holding a sign saying “First day of…”, signifying the first day of a new school year. As students head back to school new adventures begin. A new year means new classes, new teachers, new friends. For some, it means new schools as they transition to Jr. High or High School.  

Thursday, my two oldest will start 1st and 4th grades and I will take them out for breakfast, take pictures of them holding signs which my wife will later post on social media with some meaningful comment. I, like most parents, spent time this week dropping off an extensive list of school supplies and meeting the teachers who will be responsible for the education of my children. This is not a new phenomenon, as my parents have pictures of me on my first day of school when I was growing up. They even have pictures of my first day in college, and when they helped move me into seminary. 

There is a lot of hoopla surrounding a new school year; the preparations we make, the time we take to get school supplies, buy a new school outfit, set aside time to meet teachers, fill out all of the required paperwork, etc.  I feel like it is really important to know who we are trusting with our children and their education, and that is why we go through all of the hoopla.

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I were on vacation and we visited another church. While there, we were welcomed by a very friendly greeter who showed us where we could take our children. We signed our children in and off they went to church school. As a first-time visitor, we filled out the required first-time visitor information, but as my children went to church school, I had no idea who was teaching them or what they were going to be taught. As a church, I assumed everything was going to be ok, and it was. But it made me wonder why we don’t make a bigger deal of who is teaching our children about who God is? Why do we assume the curriculum that is being used is Biblically sound? At the end of our experience at the church, which again was a good experience, I had no idea what the name of my kids' teachers were or how long they had been teaching.  I got a 4th and 1st-grade interpretation of what they learned about. 

Jesus tells us in the gospel of Matthew not to store up our treasures on earth but rather in heaven, but we do.  Learning math, science, and how to read is really important and the emphasis that we put into the first day of school is probably worth it. But for some reason, we don’t treat our children’s church school experience on the same level as regular school. But shouldn’t we? 

What if we took a vested interest in what our children are learning at church? What if we took the time to meet the teachers; to support them in their calling and the work that they do? What if we spent just a fraction of the money we spent sending our kids back to school on sending our children to church school and events?

As we head into the fall and get settled back into the routine of school, I’m encouraging you to take the time to meet those who are teaching the future of the church. Let’s make it a priority to care about what is going on in the area of children and youth, and not just say we care.


Vacation Bible School – it’s a big part of my job description during the spring and early summer.  When I think of VBS, images of children singing, learning Bible stories, running around, and making friends on hot summer days may come to mind.  But what if it’s mixed up a bit, and VBS is offered during Holy Week?  I’m sure there will still be stories, songs, crafts, and friends…but there can be so much more.  Holy Week VBS – I’m not sure of many other churches offering something like this….and we thought we’d give it a try. 

I had the good fortune of meeting Kris Stenson, a wonderfully creative Presbyterian from House of Hope Presbyterian Church in Minnesota.  Kris spends her time between Minnesota and Scottsdale, and we had a chance to get to know one another last year, when Kris shared with me some of the exciting ideas and lessons she had created for children, and their understanding of the Seasons of the Church.  Well, we really got to talking, and Kris was interested in having her ideas published for other churches to use and try…but needed a place to field test her ideas…and we thought, what about offering this to the children at Pinnacle when she’s here in the winter/spring for 2013? 

Fast forward to today – here we are, ready for spring to arrive, and Holy Week is just around the corner.  Kris has been working on the final touches of the curriculum. The children we have during Holy Week will be learning about the colors and seasons of the church- from green ordinary time to the royal and regal purple associated with Lent, fiery red for Pentecost and blue for Advent.

The theme is perfect for Holy Week – learning about the seasons of the church in a week that brings Christians together around the world.  As adults, we have a good  understanding of the seasons of the church; the younger children do not have as strong and concrete understanding.  How confusing it might be for children to comprehend that all the history of the Bible happens in September, October, and November.  Then we wait for Baby Jesus to be born in the month of December…don’t wait too long, because Jesus has a lot to do in his life, which is shared with them in January and February, and then we learn that Jesus is about to die, and live again, in the months of March and April. Whew – that’s a lot to comprehend in just 28 short Sundays. 

And so this Holy Week VBS experience will be a chance to spend a little more time with the children, sharing with them the seasons of the church, the colors of the church, and stories from the Bible that connect the events to the seasons of the church calendar.  And what a wonderful week of the year to reflect on the different seasons of the church, just as we have different seasons in our lives.  Our seasons are filled with work and play, joy and sorrow, celebrations and ordinary days, much like the joy and anticipation of Advent, the sorrow throughout Lent, the celebration of Easter and Pentecost – and of course, the ordinary time, where so much growing and understanding can take place.

This Holy Week VBS experience is sure to be an interesting one, and Kris and I hope it gives you pause, and time to consider, the colors and seasons of the church, and what they can mean to you in your faith development, too.

Because of vacation, I prepared this week's Echoes entry early. As it turned out, I prepared it on the day that the official report on the Penn State athletics child sex abuse scandal prepared by former FBI Director Louis Freeh was hitting the press (July 12, 2012). As you'll remember, the case involved the now convicted coach Jerry Sandusky and those at Penn State who failed to follow up as aggressively as they should have (including legendary coach Joe Paterno). Anyone who leads programs for children must take the report seriously. Specifics of Penn State aside, anyone in that position is also well aware of how difficult it can be to protect everyone's rights in tough situations — including folks who've been accused of misconduct or crimes. Anyone following the travails of the Catholic church, or disturbing revelations about some church-related schools for Native American in the last century, or recent revelations...
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Wow! I feel we are just on the heels of Easter, and my calendar is already filling up with the details and nitty gritties of Vacation Bible School (VBS). I don’t know how many of you have been part of a VBS – whether as a child, a parent, a volunteer, or a planner. My experience had been quite limited. When I was younger, I went to VBS with my best friend, Jill. I remember making crafts, doing a lot of singing, and hearing the bible stories each day. As a parent, our church didn’t offer VBS, and my children, Paige and Grant, didn’t even know what they were missing. But then we moved to Phoenix in 2005 and would spend our summers in Florida (why stay in the dry heat when you can escape to the humidity of southern Florida?). Paige and Grant participated in the VBS program at First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs, and they loved it! The first year the theme was “Fiesta” and was a perfect match for our new home in the Southwest. We listened to...
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Here at PPC, the third Sunday in Advent is earmarked for the Children’s Christmas service – whether it’s a Christmas musical, a retelling of the Nativity, with angels, shepherds, and the wise men, or another story relating to Christmas. This year, we’ll be embarking on a new way of telling the story – through the Advent Jesse Tree. This is a tradition that we had in my church in Glenview, Ill., and I wanted to bring it to our children here in Arizona. One of the purposes of the Old Testament is to prepare us for the Messiah – that even though God’s people would not always understand many of the events that happened to them, God’s purpose was to be revealed when Jesus came to earth. The Old Testament is filled with stories that provide history, promises, and prophecies, and they frame the reader for what is to come. The Advent Jesse Tree allows us to journey through these stories, reliving...
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