Blog : pillars

Creating Peak Experiences

Creating Peak Experiences

Little did I know how powerful this experience was going to be for so many. How unprepared was I for what God was going to teach us all about His love and protection just through 4 little sheep

Just recently, on a camp I was running with kids, we were teaching about how Jesus is our shepherd and that He knows us by name. John 10 speaks about how the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and follow Him. Well, I thought what better way to teach them this than with real sheep. Little did I know how powerful this experience was going to be for so many. How unprepared was I for what God was going to teach us all about His love and protection just through 4 little sheep. So, we made a pen, got some sheep for the week and began to dream about how we could bring this teaching alive for the children throughout the week.

The passage speaks about the Shepherd caring for the sheep, knowing their names, protecting them when trouble hits and the difference between the hired hand and the real shepherd. We unpacked this each day at camp by setting up situations and challenges for each of these aspects of the teaching.

To begin with, the kids were very excited when they got there to see the sheep and we began by setting up a competition to name the sheep. The top 4 names would win and this began our growing affection for the sheep. The kids were able to feed the sheep from the outside to begin with, which was difficult at first, because when they came to us, the sheep didn’t trust us and they were very scared in their new surroundings. There was certainly no trust at this time and no one could get close to them.

We talked of watching over the sheep and protecting them from those who wanted to steal or hurt them. Being surrounded by nature and bush, we knew that there were foxes around our area, and so we talked of needing to have “shepherds of the night” so the sheep were being watched all the time and therefore would be kept safe. This meant that cabins of kids could apply to be the “shepherds of the night”, which entailed camping out in tents, keeping the fire going (stocked with marshmallows of course for cooking over the fire) and keeping watch over the sheep throughout the night. I was surprised how many cabins wanted to do this, more than the nights we had at camp, so it became quite a special experience if your cabin was nominated. They had to get the campfire started, then got to sit around and sing, tell stories, bond, eat roasted marshmallows and occasionally check the sheep. They took shifts throughout the night and when I came out each morning about 6.00am to see them there was always someone sitting out near the stoked fire, enjoying the heat and keeping watch. The stories, the bonding, the chance to talk about the commitment of the Shepherd to watch over the sheep, the sacrifice, the loss of creature comforts of a warm comfortable bed, as many nights at this camp were cold and raining, were all great things that they ACTUALLY experienced.

There were times when the kids wanted to go back to their cabins. They had had their marshmallows, a bit of fun, and it was time to go back. The fun had worn off…but no…they learned the hard way, that it was not just all fun and games. There were mornings where they crawled out of dripping tents with wet mattresses … all great opportunities for great experiential learning. All said they were glad they did it, but were not keen to do again. This showed the love of the shepherd, to do whatever it takes to know his sheep were safe, not just one night but all the time. For some of these kids it was the first time ever to camp out, make a fire, stay up late and sing around the camp fire. For most it was the highlight of camp.

In the middle of camp, while the kids were at an activity, the sheep were stolen (all set up of course). The kids came back to find their leaders in the pen with a ransom note saying “Unless you do exactly what we say, you will never see your sheep again”. The kids’ reactions were priceless. They were straight into action, freeing their leaders and then setting off through a series of challenges to finally find the rustlers with the sheep on the other side of the campsite. When they found them, the rustlers begged for forgiveness, realising they had done the wrong thing and the kids (with encouragement) invited them back to our campfire dinner that night to celebrate that our lost sheep were found. Again, the stories around the campfire that night were priceless. We got the kids to share what happened, and the some leaders shared around picnic rugs with a small group of children, what it meant for them to be lost and found by Jesus in their life. Needless to say those on “shepherd of the night” duty that night were particularly determined to make sure the sheep were safe.

Throughout the week as I was unpacking the biblical story, I used pictures of the kids I was taking to tell the story, so they were in it, a part of it, experiencing it and for all of us this story came to life in a very new way.

Each day the kids who were “Shepherds of the night,” got to go into the pen, corral the sheep into a corner and handle them and pat them. Each day this got easier and easier. I got to experience this more than any of them as the group was different each day. The kids on the last day didn’t even need to get in the pen. We rustled the bag, called them and they came to us and fed from our hands. This was very different from the beginning of the week, where the sheep were unsure and scared of us and didn’t trust us at all. What a transformation, which we talked about on the last day of camp. How much more does our Shepherd know us and love us. We like sheep, still weave and duck and run away. We are helpless and can get easily lost, but our shepherd will always come looking for us, will always care for us and knows each of us by name.

I believe this is an experience that many of our kids and team (and me) will never forget. I will never read that story the same way again. Like many camping experiences, it will go down as a PEAK EXPERIENCE for me and for many of the children at camp, one where they gained a DEEPER understanding of God’s love, grace, patience, and sacrifice.

What types of PEAK EXPERIENCES are you creating for you and your kids, young people, your families, that can become anchor points which God can use to secure HIS TRUTH into us all, that we then take with us for the rest of our lives?

Parenting with the end in mind

Parenting with the end in mind

Sometimes speaking into a person’s life doesn’t have to be a hard thing to do, sometimes it takes simply writing a few intentional thoughts on a piece of paper.

My son turned 18 last year. A rite of passage that is to be celebrated. And we did celebrate it in a number of ways, but there was one thing that we shared as a family that was one of the most precious moments for me of his actual birth-day.

The kids landed on our bed at 8 am in the morning this morning. They have done this for many years when they were little but that did not happen that often nowadays. Usually it was because they wanted their presents.

But that was not the reason this morning. For 17 years Sam has been waiting to open his “time capsule”.

At the age of 1 we had a dedication with family and close friends at our house. We asked those that came to pray for us and stand with us as parents and would THEY be willing to walk with our child on his “life” journey. We asked each person if they wanted to put something into the time capsule that he would open when he was 18 and today was the day.

Secretly I was hoping it wasn’t going to be an anti-climax for him as I couldn’t even remember what was in the capsule myself.

Before he opened it I read from a diary I have been writing for Sam since he was only 10 weeks in my tummy, the kids love to hear stories from it over the years. This first entry spoke about the fact that even before he was born he was loved.


Then Sam opened the capsule. In it was, his first dummy, his first ball, his first jumpsuit, his first shoes and his ultrasound picture. Then there were letters and notes from the people who were present. Sam was like a child again as we all re-lived moments and memories, we laughed and told stories and then he opened a letter from his grandma (Dave’s mum) who had passed a couple of years ago.

She wrote that she knew she wouldn’t be here to celebrate this special time but she thanks him for the joy he brought to her life and that she will see him in heaven. Well, we all lost it emotionally at that point and cried together, but what a precious message from beyond the grave. A collision with his grandparent, even one that had passed away.

There were many precious stories and letters from people who are still in his life, some have moved far away, others are still close by and others who thought they wouldn’t be alive but are…but what a special morning to share together.

Sometimes speaking into a person’s life doesn’t have to be a hard thing to do, sometimes it takes simply writing a few intentional thoughts on a piece of paper. Sometimes it is consistently being there, or simply taking any opportunity to have a party with good friends. It is Intentionally marking moments and always having the “end in mind”. The wonderful thing is that this was a moment for us all, not just Sam, we will all remember that morning for a long time. It takes a little long-term thinking of setting things in place that can create moments that can become anchors for the whole family for a lifetime. On this day, although 17 years in the making, showed SAM that he was always loved and that he will always be. Our prayer as parents is that he will always have these moments where ever he goes, that they may keep him anchored in “love” for where ever he may sail next.

The key is to intentionally mark the moments and to always have the end in mind.

If you could walk a mile in my shoes.

If you could walk a mile in my shoes.

It is so easy to make assumptions, to think you know better and even to make judgements when you sit on the sidelines and observe.


 I was in a situation recently where I wasn’t leading at a camp but simply observing from the outside…..

It was a camp for troubled kids and their behaviour was very disturbing at times. This is not unusual, as I have been directing camps like this for over ten years now. What surprised me was my internal reaction to what I was observing.

For the first time in a while I found myself looking through a different lens. What surprised me was my Personal reaction when I was looking from the outside where there was no emotional attachment. I was surprised how judgmental I was at times and how I lacked empathy. I found myself getting frustrated, impatient and actually at times lacked compassion when I watched certain children’s behaviour and the way they treated the adults and other children. Not that I think bullying and disrespect should be tolerated, but I was quite surprised what it stirred up in me. I can imagine if I had been working in the camp and got to know the kids and leaders personally that my feelings would have been different. I know this because I really don’t have those emotions in the camp I run each year in July. I didn’t realise that it is only when I am integrally involved and get to know and love the kids, how much more compassion and patience I have with them.

It is so easy to make assumptions, to think you know better and even to make judgements when you sit on the sidelines and observe. And it is not something I am very proud of. But I realised how differently everything is seen when you are in thick of it, emotionally invested and willing to take a responsible role in the running of such an event, which means taking responsibility for what is happening, both good and bad. In all my years of working with children and people, I do know that “There is always a reason why we behave the way we do.” I teach all the time the importance of looking beyond the misbehaviour for the cry for help and yet I so easily broke my own rules as I piously sat on the sidelines, trying to control my emotions of frustration and judgement.

Then I wondered how many other times in life could this be true? We may watch other parents and make assumptions. We can see or read something about other churches or ministries and make judgements. We even observe other people’s choices and behaviour at times and, without knowing the full story, it is so easy to watch from a distance and “throw stones” as the saying goes. I wonder how aware we are that we are doing it!

I love living and doing life in an “Intergenerational Faith Community.” Living and doing life within our faith community has bonded us all in special ways and with that special bond comes a love and grace to know each other, the good and the bad and ugly, and still to choose to walk together, as we desire to grow more and more like Him. I understand that others standing on the outside may see it differently. I have often wondered why more people don’t want to join this kind of community. Yet, I understand why many find this threatening and choose to sit on the sidelines, possibly just attend a service on a Sunday, not get too close to many. But I wonder if that makes it too easy to find themselves like me, making judgements from the sidelines. It is easier to do, after all. It does not require any sacrifice or cost to me personally to live in such a way. I often hear people say to me: “I am a Christian, but I am not connected to any Church.” I get it. I understand it, but without trying to be judgemental, I don’t believe it is God’s design or the model we see from Jesus when He walked this earth.

As the saying goes, “if you could walk a mile in my shoes…” I wonder how differently we would live if we could really understand and empathise with others. I was challenged by this as I realised how easy it was to simply sit back, watch and commentate from the sidelines. But actually, Jesus calls us to walk closely with others, to jump in boots and all and walk more than a mile in other peoples’ shoes. It is only when we do that that we have the right to make a difference, an opportunity to truly help and as we do we can’t help but be transformed in the process.

So can I be so bold as to say… Get off the sidelines and into the actual game. Get off your Soapbox and start to do something about it.

Get off the comfortable pew and "walk a mile in someone else's shoes," and watch what a difference it makes to you and those around you.

Just a flip of a switch

Just a flip of a switch

It is a strange place to find yourself; as a parent of a teenager. To discover suddenly that what was acceptable communication yesterday is not today. I want to ask “who flipped the switch?”


It is a strange place to find yourself; as a parent of a teenager. To discover suddenly that what was acceptable communication yesterday is not today. I want to ask “who flipped the switch?”

It is no surprise and I have been waiting for it, as it is no secret that all teens go through this time when parents can do or say nothing right …but still when it happened it caught me off guard. I am right in the middle of it, with one 15 year-old and one that is 18 years old. Yet I am surprised how the rules of engagement can change from day to day or hour to hour. So, not only does the switch flip, but it feels like it is flipping up and down constantly and to navigate what position we are in at any given time is almost impossible.

I do not intend this blog to become an opportunity to complain about teenagers, especially my own, as I happen to feel I have two exceptionally wonderful teens. As biased as that is, I stand by it. This is more about what I am learning about how to navigate this interesting season.

It is hard to be in a place where your opinion is not seen to be valued. It challenges me to think about where I get my value?

I am learning to continually see myself in the image of God, and as His child, as well as continually handing my children over to Him, knowing that He hasn’t finished with any of us yet. It reminds me that this season and these challenges are not about me, but about my teens learning and growing and needing to question, to widen their circle and seek out what they believe. AND I am learning that when I do get emotional about them not valuing my opinion, often it simply shuts down the potential lines of future communication. 

It is hard to be in a place where the conversation seems completely irrational to me and when I try to bring some rationality to the situation, it sends the conversation to an ugly place. It challenges me make to think about what is the right response as a parent in this space?

I  am learning that one thing they need right now is for me to listen, listen and listen. It reminds me that they need me to empathise no matter how ridiculous it sounds as it is simply a part of the process and often the irrational verbalisation is important for them to hear out loud for themselves more than anything else. AND I have learned to apologise A LOT, for not listening and speaking too much. 

It is hard to be in a place where I am asked for my opinion, but when it is not what they want to hear, then I become the enemy. It challenges me to consider that HOW I respond can make all the difference.

I am learning not to take this personally and to see that sometimes being the punching bag is because they feel safe to vent with me. I am learning that a response like “that is really tough”, “I am sorry to hear that ” or “I am confident that you will make the right choice”, or “have you thought about talking to … (a mentor/coach/trusted older person) about this ?” is often better than them hearing my opinion. AND I have learned that this is a really important time for others’ voices in my teens’ lives. 

 It has reminded me of the importance of coaches and mentors for both myself and the kids. I am thankful for the people in my life who have walked this road before, who listen to me and help me see the funny side of some of the conversations, because sometimes all I can do is to laugh it off and let it go. I am thankful for a wonderful husband and life partner, which means I am not alone and that we get to walk this season together. We often find that when one is weak the other is strong and together we get there eventually. I am thankful for the men and woman in my teens’ lives who they can go to and hear the same advice I would give, but that they will actually listen to. I encourage anyone with younger children that NOW is the time to start being strategic about placing the right people in your kids’ lives so that when they become teenagers the trust is already there for your teens to go to them.

This season challenges me to stay the course, keep the end in mind, keep short accounts of conversations, let go, draw closer and talk (sometimes cry) to my perfect Heavenly Father. ABOVE all, do whatever it takes to keep the lines of communication OPEN. Irrespective of whether the switch is up or down … because while it can flip any second … open lines, unconditional love, a calm and listening ear, wisdom from above and a willingness to say sorry… will get us through this season.

I have to believe that. I am not there yet … I will keep you posted.

The key is keeping communication lines open with your teens.

Children’s and Families Pastor shares how H2S has helped their ministry

Children’s and Families Pastor shares how H2S has helped their ministry

Tim Walter, Children’s and Family Pastor at Epping Church of Christ shares what is happening in his faith community  

I just wanted to update you on the Here 2 Stay principles that we are exploring at Epping Church of Christ. 3 weeks ago during the usual family value segment (kids spot) we utilised this time to talk about the issues facing the Australian Church and the haemorrhaging of young people that the Church experiences each year. The language was simple and easy to understand as all ages where in the service at this time.


The information session hit home with many in the service as their own children are statistics in that they have left the church themselves. The 10 pillars where listed and very briefly explained as where the personal journey hand outs where individuals could map there own development through the pillars. As the session was short (10 minutes) we needed to place this into a context so it was not overwhelming. This worked well as we had a Baptism that took place a week earlier, I was able to place the pillars over the baptism in which it almost ticked each box.


After the service there where a large number of conversations with parents and families all affirming the need for this strategy. At this point we are using it as a filter to see what gaps may show up within the generations that we are ministering to.


Here 2 stay is so important, and is an amazing gift to be able to find our weak points but it also helps us plan and think of ways to ensure our young people thrive in our Church community as we disciple them.

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