Monday, September 19, 2011

Family Campout Time!

It’s time to “get your fun on”! Camping is a great way to relax and decompress from the busy schedule or life. The memory making possibilities are limitless! All-group activities and devotional times will be planned throughout the weekend. Pack up your tent (or camper if you’re so blessed!), sleeping bags, lanterns and all that good stuff and join us for a terrific weekend of fellowship and worship in God’s beautiful creation!

Sign-up below or at Contact Pastor Tonya (698-1503, Facebook, if you have questions.

September 30-October 2

David Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg – Campground 1: The bathhouse is close, a creek runs along one side and there is a great paved loop for bikes and scooters. More details can be found at

Each family will be responsible for their own campsite ($20 per night), dinner on Friday night and Sunday breakfast. All meals on Saturday will be covered. ($5 activity and meal fee per person, limit $20 per family).

Throughout the weekend “Grace Bucks” will be awarded for various events, prizes, extra helpful behavior, etc. On Saturday night, we will have a fun auction where you can spend what you’ve earned. (We welcome the donation of auction items – the quirkier, the better!)

Tentative Schedule (Very tentative, that’s the point . . . we don’t have to be hyper-scheduled!)


Arrive at your leisure (look for the signs marking the campsites of other Grace Church families in Campground 1) and get set-up. Supplies will be available at Pastor Tonya’s site for you to come make a family sign.

7:00PM *Singing and devotions
              *Family Talent Show – come prepared with a song, skit, magic trick or your very own “stupid    human trick” Grace Bucks will be awarded for participants and winners
              *Games and fun around the campfire (bring your cards and board games)
              *BYOS (Bring your own snacks)

10:00PM Quiet hours


7:45AM Breakfast (Something with eggs and bacon/sausage, probably hashbrowns - still working on details!)

9:00AM Kids to the playground/Parent Free Time

10:00AM Family Free Time

11:30AM Lunch (Sandwiches and chips)

1:00PM Family Free Time

2:00PM Kickball Game and other fun – everyone

3:30PM Family Free Time

5:30PM Dinner (Hot dogs on the fire and Chili)

7:00PM *Singing and Devotions
              *Campfire Fun and games
              *Grace Bucks Auction

10:00PM Quiet Hours


Breakfast on your own (The Park Restaurant is open 7:30AM-10:00AM, not sure on prices)

8:30AM Service at Camp Shelter

9:15AM Pack up and on your own

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why Camp is so Important (sort of a guest post)

Many of you know that I love church camp and believe it to be one of the most valuable experiences that a child can have.  I have SO many fun and important, life-defining camp memories that have contributed to who I am today - good or bad, it is what it is!

I always tell the kids and families of our church that camp is too important to let a little thing like money get in the way and we have NEVER denied a Grace Kid from going to camp if they and their family were willing.  This is due to the gracious gifts of many over the years who have contributed to camp scholarships. 

But I am not writing about you sending your kids to camp today, nor am I asking for scholarship assistance (if you feel so led, that's fine).  I remembered, the other day, a letter that I received about 4 years ago from one of the men in our church who has been a faithful counselor for several years.  I asked Ken if I could share some of his thoughts from that very important letter and he graciously granted permission and blessing (my emphasis added) . . .

Dear Pastor Tonya,

As I packed for preteen camp last Friday, it occurred to me that I might be getting to old for this.  I also thought of my aging parents who I try to call each day and how far behind I would be when I returned to work.  I hate to admit it, but I even entertained a passing thought regarding the expenditure of a week's vacation.  I did recall how much fun middler camp had been in 2004 and 2005.  I thought about how much I missed being there with my wife and son last year.  Patrick and Dawn had a wonderful time, but I felt a sense of personal loss.  Finally, I realized that I had made a commitment. It was too late to back out.

Monday morning the loading process itself was interesting.  We had no pin for the trailer hitch and kids were beginning to arrive; but with the help of parents and kids the trailer finally got loaded.  I settled back in my seat as we drove to Camp Garner Creek and realized that, yes I was probably too old for this.  We arrived at the camp and had a hectic hour of getting settled in.  Room and counselor assignments for our cabin required some adjustments and it seemed like mass chaos for about 30 minutes. I was really counting on Kaleb Kilpatrick's help, but he was needed elsewhere.  For some reason the other counselors that passed by all looked younger than me, some much younger.  I walked out on the porch for a moment and realized that my earlier concerns were real.  I was really too old for this, and I had no doubt about it this time.

Then camp actually started.  I got to meet a bunch of fine young men. One was mine, several I knew well, several I had seen at church but did not know well, and two were strangers from other churches.  They were all unique and wonderful.  I count them all as my friends now. Through each chapel service, cabin devotion, activity and trip to the creek I got to know them better; even my own son.  They are rapidly growing up on us.  Within a ten minute window I could see the boy in them and the young man in them. I could tell that their parents had been involved in their lives and that you had taught them well as their children's pastor. They are all truly fortunate.  That's not the case for all young men.

For reasons I will explain in a moment, I want to share my memories of this camp with you. Pastor Dustin's sermons were on target for this age group.  The children responded to his sermons, and I believe to the call of the Holy Spirit.  I can best summarize it with my son's private comment to me after chapel.  He told me that "Pastor Dustin sort of gets you right here", pointing to his heart.  He added that he felt like there were some things he needed to do differently.  The altar calls were awesome and I believe many made real decisions pertaining to how they plan to live their lives. 

The night-time devotions in my cabin were awesome and inspiring.  The guys in my room really responded to the calls fro prayer requests. The were very mature and very real! We prayed for family members back home, a wonderful Sunday School teacher, a Sunday School teacher's wife, parents, grandparents, family situations, relationships and those who are ill. We prayed for the guys, specifically wisdom in decision making.  I won't mention specifics, but again they were spontaneous and real.  All I had to do was ask "any prayer requests?" and an outpouring followed.  Most of them boldly prayed out loud for their requests and for requests made by others. The guys didn't always listen well this week, but there was one exception - devotion time.  They listened intently and participated vigorously.  I am not really sure ten adults would have had a better devotion time.  I had an opportunity to share my testimony with the guys in my room and we talked about how we become Christians. We talked about the parents we all respected and loved, and many voiced their feelings.  Again, all of this to a fine group of parents and pastors.  Please notice that I used the plural form for pastor. The two young men from other churches participated as thought they had been with the Grace guys forever.

On a lighter note, I saw guys climb the zip-line tower, look sixty feet below, say a quick prayer, and step off in faith. The thing is that when they hit the ground below, they were about 6 inches taller, a year older and brave enough to slay dragons! It might not have fit in with Pastor Dustin's message that day, but it made for a wonderful devotion on faith! Someone really ought to put signs on the top of the platform reading "faith" and "courage"! It might even be a good place for a Bible verse. I also witnessed guys working together and participating as a team. I'll admit that this was often done grudgingly, but they did it anyway.  They also argued and taunted each other at times, but I also saw them take up for and motivate each other.  I saw friendships develop and, in some cases, mend.

As a counselor, I got to play in the creek with the guys I measured craw fish (crawdads) for them and got to argue with them over the appropriate names for these little creatures.  I urged them to jump off of rocks into the creek and I had to slow some of them down. We tried to squeeze in creek time whenever possible, even if it was for only 15 minutes.  On a last night night-time hike to the creek, some of the guys were amazed at how different the creek was at night. I got to swim with them in the pool and I got to try to buck them off my back in the pool. They came from every corner of the pool to jump on my back.  I paid for this with sore muscles that night, but I loved every minute of it.  I had to push them into bed and drag them out of bed.  In short, I had an opportunity to experience boys being boys.  In today's world far too few boys get to experience these things.  I'm thankful that this group had an opportunity to go to camp and be a boy for one more time.  I will admit that even the counselors get to "be a boy" one more time.  By the way, I admit this with no feelings of shame! When you are standing waist deep in a creek with thirty kids jumping and screaming around you, there are moments when you feel as if you are eleven years old.  It's a refreshing feeling. 

Then there are the surprise camper moments, like running into a couple of boys who were in your cabin at Middler Camp two years ago.  It was great when their eyes met yours and you instantly knew they remember you.  It was an even great surprise when they spoke, remembering your name and sharing something they remembered. It's an awesome feeling to see old friends, even when they aren't old.  Then you have the impromptu opportunities with this year's kids, like being able to pray with a child that you find crying on the bunk or the creek bank discussion with an older kid who says he's bummed out this week because he lost a girlfriend the previous week.  Perhaps the problem was a lost Bible or craft item.  At first glance some of their problems seem minor, but then you realize that to them they are a major life crisis. It was apparent that some boys even had greater problems.  Some missed their parents due to military deployments, divorce or other reasons.  These weren't necessarily from our group; you often have a chance to meet kids from other rooms or even other cabins. 

Finally, there were staff moments.  It was fun to see those I had worked with previously.  I had the opportunity to make a new friend, the other counselor in my cabin.  We were very different in many ways, but we had many more things in common. Toward the end of the week we had an opportunity to talk on the cabin, it was a great time for me.  The next morning we had an early-morning opportunity, again on the porch, to pray together for the kids in our rooms, our families and each other. I will continue to pray for him in the coming months as he experiences the birth of a little girl and then a deployment to Afghanistan.  My friend had experienced some frustration with his room. We joked that our best action might have been to line our whole cabin up and apply a two foot paddle at times. I firmly believe he planted some seeds though, seeds that will later sprout. My friend is a godly, courageous, and honorable man and I pray for his safe return from Afghanistan and to this camp.

I realize this has been a lengthy letter.  Now I'll explain why to the best of my abilities.  I'm not entirely sure! Perhaps you may be able to use it if a future person is sitting on the fence, unsure as to whether or not to be a counselor.  If so, I hope you can use this to show them that the rewards are greater than the commitments.  It's hard work, it's tiring, and at times it's frustrating; but it's worth every minute of it.  I've spoken of the men and boys, but I'm sure the female counselors would echo my sentiments, perhaps with a few altered details. I may have written this for you to use on me if you ever need help and I tell you I'm too old.  I caution you never to joke with me about going to camp if you don't need me; I'll probably accept the joking offer and then you'll be in a sticky situation!  Seriously, I pray that others will get this opportunity and take advantage of it.  Counseling is a wonderful experience for a father, an older teen, or any man. You don't have to have boys, or even children to do it.  Don't let me go in anyone's place, but sign me up anytime you need one or more.

This camp was great for my son.  This camp was great for me. Thanks for the hard work you put into organizing the camp and thanks to all the other workers.  I would offer these thanks had I not even gone.  I had a son who needed to be there!


This is a beautiful look into the heart of camp.  Ken can't go this year.  There have been a lot of changes at his work in the past few months, and his mother is very sick. He knows that the days ahead will require time and attention for her and his father. 

Will you take up the mantle? Can you picture yourself there?  It might change a kids' life and it will definitely change yours!

Primary (finished 1st and 2nd grade) July 11-14
Middler (finished 3rd and 4th grade) June 27-July 1
Preteen (finished 5th and 6th grade) June 20-24

Pastor Tonya

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Grace Kids Summer 411

With only a dozen or so school days left, summer is just around the corner! I wanted to share some important dates and info with you - so get out your calendars and smartphones!

On May 29, we will be having a Celebration Day at the new church property on Highway 50. This will be a casual 10:45AM service (care provided for 3-5 year olds), followed by lunch on the grounds! Check out your bulletin to see what to bring.

That means that there are only 2 more Sundays before our Summer Sundays schedule begins (more on that in a minute). Will you take a moment in the next 2 Sundays to say a special "thank you" to your children's Sunday School teachers? We have wonderful teachers who love the kids so much and put lots of time, energy, and effort into their classes each week. A note or story about something your child has learned would mean so much.

VBS is coming May 31-June 3. You (and your friends) can sign-up at! We are looking forward to a fun week as always! Your family won't want to miss it! VBS Sunday will be June 5 during the 2nd service. Children will sit with their families in the VBS celebration service. The nursery will be opened this hour, NO classes in the children's building. (During the 1st service, nursery and preschool classes will meet as usual with all K-5th grade children upstairs.)

June 12 will begin our Summer Sundays schedule. Nursery and preschool classes will meet as usual. All K-5th graders will meet for children's church in the chapel during the 9:15 service. 10:45 will be the Sunday School time for all elementary children. During the summer, we give our teachers the summer off to rest and re-energize. If you are willing and available to serve in a class for one or two Sundays during the summer, let me know and we'll get you plugged into the fun! (Yes, I already have some of you on "my list"!)

Camp dates are as follows:
Preteen (finished 5th or 6th grade): June 20 - 24 ($150) Absolute last day to sign up is June 5.
Middler (finished 3rd or 4th grade): June 27 - July 1 ($150) Absolute last day to sign up is June 12.
Primary (finished 1st or 2nd grade): July 11 - 14 ($135) Absolute last day to sign up is June 26.

This is a "spend the night away" camp at our Nazarene Campground in Dickson, TN. The kids who go from our church will all be together and will be with the counselors from our church. (Yes, we need parents to be counselors!) Please do not let money stop your child from one of the most important experiences of their life. We can find money if your child wants to go to camp! If you have any other questions, I will be more than happy to answer them! Camp is the best!! Once you are signed up, you will get a letter about a week out with last minute reminders and details.

July 17: Move up lunch for families of kids moving into the Student Ministry - In the Loft, following 2nd service

July 26: Nashville Shores - Meet at the church at 8:00AM. We will return to the church at 5:00PM

July 31: Promotion Sunday - All children who will be 3 before October 1st will move to their new classes. Also, new large group/small group format begins for K-5th graders. More details to follow!

Thanks for your support and for allowing me to serve you and your family! If there is ever anything I can do for you, please let me know! If you ever have concerns that need to be addressed, please tell me! I can't fix it, if I don't know it's broken! You are wonderful parents and it is my honor to help you raise people of God!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Faith to Share

This was originally an email written to the Grace Kids ministry team, but it shows the heart of  our team so I wanted to share it here . . .

Hi, everyone! For Lent this year rather than "giving something up", I felt that I needed more to commit to a dedicated time of reading each day in the office. It is easy to come in and get in a "tizzy" with all of the plannng and people things that need to be done and the days just slip away. With that said, I wanted to share with you one of the nuggets I discovered this week . . . .

The chapter I was reading started off by asking what benefit do our children get from going to church/Sunday School over, say, worshipping at home as a family on Sundays. Or what about a baby in the nursery? Is that really important? Does it matter to a child's faith development at such a young age? The truth (and the goal) is that every activity is "grounded in the belief that we are sharing our faith". We should think of our teaching opportunities as invitations to children to come and soak up some of our faith in Jesus.

When we plan a party or other event where we invite people, there are always preparations to be made - the cleaning, the menu, the entertainment, etc. The same is true with our class planning. We want the room to be in good order, we must have a solid (Biblically based, relevant) plan, children deserve engaging activities. But the point of the party is not the menu and the entertainment. Those things only serve to point to the reason for celebrating - the birthday, anniversary, new baby, etc. In the same way our lesson planning and activities are merely the means to an end - the celebration of the Good News of Jesus and who he is to us!

What a privilege to have a captive audience with whom to share our faith each week! I bet your neighbors and co-workers don't come bustling in for an hour each week to hear you tell them everything you can about the God who made and loves them, but that is exactly what we, as teachers, get - kids who are ready to absorb everything we teach them (on purpose or not) about God.

Wow! Let's not pass up the opportunities that we have to take this captive audience and point them to Jesus! Let's us every means available! Let's employ all of their senses! Let's model in word and deed the love that can only come from God!

Then when someone asks "Does it really matter if my kids are in church this Sunday or Wednesday?"; we know that with God's help we can faithfully answer "Yes, they are invited to a celebration and they won't want to miss it!".

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Between time and eternity

This past Sunday, I found myself with a moment to sit down and breathe while at "Bingo at the Bridge" with our 4th and 5th graders. This is a monthly event where we get some fast food lunch after church and then spend about 45 minutes with the residents of one of the assisted living facilities in our town. The kids look forward to it. They like to call the Bingo numbers (it's just about the only time in my life I have to tell kids to be louder), pass out the 50 cents the winner receives, sit with the residents, help the ones who can't hear as well, and play in the beautiful courtyard at the end of the day.

While sitting there Sunday, I thought about the stories these men and women could tell about their lives. It has been fun to watch their personalities in the 3+ years we have been going there - the really sweet ones, the funny ones, the bossy one, the ones who don't take the 50 cents when they win because they don't need it and they're just there for fun and to pass the time. I wondered how many of them had been "important", how many lives they had touched, how they had made a difference for others. In what ways have their lives mattered?I became very aware of the fact that I had spent the morning with children who (ideally) have their whole lives before them to love, and now I was spending the afternoon with people for whom almost all of their days have passed.

And here I am in the middle, somewhere between the 5 year olds and the 80 year olds (no, that average is not my age yet!). Has my life mattered and to whom and has it been enough and what else can I do? I tell the kids that you only get to grow up once, so they need to enjoy being a kid and at the same time they need to start now living God's way.

I have just finished reading Tony Dungy's autobiography "Quiet Strength". Simply put, he is an amazing man of God. He stated many times that football is just a game and that he felt that his purpose in football was to use it as a platform to show and tell people about the things that really matter - life in Christ, family, others. It is easy to see that Tony Dungy's life has been important, that he has made a difference. He's famous and has used his position well in glorifying God.

I will never be famous (which is very fine with me); but I can and must live my life to glorify Christ and build a legacy for my children and my Grace Kids. Then, one day, when most of my days have passed if someone wonders if my life mattered, if I was important, if made a difference - the answer will be yes, because she lived to glorify God.

How about you?

Friday, January 21, 2011


Through Easter we are studying the life of Jesus in children's church. (I think it can be confusing for kids that we celebrate Jesus being born at Christmas and about 3-4 months later he is crucified, so maybe this will help with that!) Last Sunday we learned about Jesus' baptism and talked about why we get baptized. We posted the names and dates of the kids who have been baptized on the set wall and reminded them of the commitment they made in front of their church family and that our goal as Christians is to live up to that baptism promise each day.

Another thing that is often confusing for children is that baptism does not wash our sins away, but it shows that Jesus has forgiven our sins. I always emphasize this to help them "get it". The last activity of children's church was a game where we had to put some pictures in order of what comes first . . .socks, then shoes; put your toothpaste on your toothbrush, then brush your teeth; the pitcher has to pitch the ball before the batter can hit it; etc. As we were wrapping up, I said so when it comes to following Jesus, "first" we asked Jesus to forgive our sins; "then" and the kindergartner beside me said "you advertise"!

I love it! From the mouths of babes! Baptism is our "advertising" and telling the world that we have decided to follow Jesus! Just as we expect a business or a political candidate who makes ad promises to follow through, it is our responsibility to fulfill the vow we have made to God and our church family! God is faithful and he will help us be so as we trust in him and walk in his ways each day.

Have you decided to follow Jesus? Have you advertised? Are you keeping your end of the bargain?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Favorite Things about "Back to the Manger"

I wanted to note my favorite memories about this year's Kids' Christmas Musical while they are still fresh on my mind:

On a personal note
  • My daddy got to be there! Many of you don't know my dad. He is disabled and hasn't be out and about much in the past few years, but God is doing new things and I was so excited that Daddy was able to be there on Sunday to see Jay and all of my Grace Kids. Actually, my dad is as smart, funny and talented as momma and loves the Lord so much; and I hope you all get a chance to get to know his better as time goes on. We appreciate your prayers for strength and grace for him each day. (Ironically, this is the first play momma has missed because she is serving as children's pastor in Gallatin!)
  • I was so proud of my "Jaybird"! In the past he has always had the play memorized, but I could never trust him with a big speaking part because I knew stage fright was likely to take over. This year was his year and I can see how he is growing up! What joy for this momma!

As Pastor Tonya:

  • I love that God calls people to serve him through children's ministry and I don't just mean kids. God calls adults through children's ministry too!
  • I am amazed at what a bunch of mostly 5-10 year olds can accomplish (we had a few 11 year olds sprinkled in there!). They really lived up to 1 Timothy 4.12. . ."Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young . . ." I was "sanctified proud"!
  • Getting to know the kids better and learning more about their individual personalities through our time together.
  • How just about 8 weeks ago Megan S was too shy to come to practice without momma and at 10:45 she "saved the day".
  • When Grace V said at practice that we should love ourselves as much as we love our neighbors.
  • Time to be around my sweet friend Larissa (it seems we only get to "hang out"' during Christmas play season, but she is one of my favorite people.)
  • A reminder that despite what the world says about parents, people really DO care about their kids and support them and sacrifice for them.
  • I'm jealous of Leah B and Amy T's sewing abilities, but so happy to have them around!
  • Proud of my former Grace Kids Patrick for being an amazing sound guy . . .all grown up.
  • Loving the idea of "costume changes". I'm sure the kids felt like "stars"!
  • Appreciated being able to have the program on Sunday morning which I'm sure made the kids feel extra special and allowed us to be ready to go without having to crash through Sunday afternoon set-up.
  • So grateful for all of our volunteer team!
  • Carson W was too cute doing those motions.
  • Can't wait for the little blond who loved be on stage during the handbells to be old enough to be in the "real" play - what spunk!
  • Glad that God works through cheesy "Back to the Future" themes and disco music!

Ready to see the DVDs! Hopefully they'll be available soon!