Category Archives: teens

Church Based After School Programs: Serving Third Culture Children – Their Struggles

If you serve the children of immigrants understand that they face struggles you may never have experienced.

Mom and Dad want them to continue the culture of their “homeland.”

  •  However, to fit in they MUST adopt the American culture –which can lead to cynicism towards their parents.
    • They know more than their parents.
    • One young man told me how he and his brother looked-down on their parents because they couldn’t speak English.
    • As the kids adopt this new-found culture mom and dad have difficulty understanding what is happening – they are filled with fear.
      • Fear of losing everything they know.
      • Fear of losing their children.

  “Mrs. Lisa I’m going to kill myself,” came the whispered voice over the phone.

Lisa’s whole body shook; what should she do? From Grace’s voice she knew she was serious. “Grace, I’ll be at your apartment in minutes.”

Lisa grabbed her jacket and ran out of her apartment and to the other side of the complex. As she ran she thanked God that He had arranged for her and her family to move into this apartment complex.

Grace, a teenager, was standing out front of her apartment, as she saw Lisa running towards her she ran to meet her. Grace threw her arms around Lisa sobbing, “Mrs. Lisa I can’t stand it everything is going wrong. Rob broke up with me, kids are saying horrible things to me at school, and my parents don’t understand anything. They just keep saying, ‘Things don’t happen like this at home.’”

 “WE AREN’T AT HOME! This is America.”

Lisa took Grace inside and talked to her mother – her father stayed on the opposite side of the room.

Lisa drove the family to the emergency ward of the closest hospital – it was a full night ordeal.

Dad sat on the opposite side of the hospital waiting room far from Lisa, Grace and the mother. It was as though he was disowning his daughter. He could not accept that this was happening, this kind of thing didn’t happen in his country he kept insisting.

In the early morning Lisa phoned me from the hospital and told me what was happening. She was frustrated because she didn’t feel they were getting the help they needed – “Do you have any thoughts Wanda?”

It is so fun to see God at work as He opens doors. I connected her with a friend who is a psychologist and she knew a Christian psychologist of the same nationality as the family who was willing to work with them at no cost.

Through family therapy things were worked out.

  • The father acknowledged he needed to look at things from his daughter’s perspective. He couldn’t continue to live in the past.
  • Grace was able to see that things in the future wouldn’t be as bleak as they were today.

A few questions for you:

  1. Are you available if something like this happens in your after school ministry?
  2. Would you know what to do?
  3. What/Who are your resources?
  4. Are you aware of the struggles of third culture kids?
  5. Do you know how to address those struggles?
    1. Do you address them?
    2. Do you talk with the kids about it – bring it out in the open?
My parents were third culture children and I heard of their struggles as I grew up. My dad couldn’t speak English when he began school – that hung over him all of his life, he brought it up often.
I believe that part of helping the kids is helping the parents to assimilate into the larger culture of America. Encourage them, and help them to find ways to move beyond their “safe haven” of other immigrants from their country of origin. 


By Wanda

We are making some changes!

Trying to write about After School Programs, which is outreach oriented, and Children’s Ministry, which is geared to church raised kids, at the same time wasn’t working.

Thus we have split the two.

KidTrek: Sunday Plus is a new blog which will focus on ministry to children raised in the church.  We are still developing it so expect some glitches over the next few weeks.

KidTrek – After School Programs is this Blog beginning today. The URL has been changed too This Blog will now focus on outreach through the children’s ministry. That is actually where we began.

I’ll be interested in hearing what you think of these changes.

My passion is seeing kids discipled to walk with Jesus. I believe that the church is challenged to not only disciple their own children but to also reach out into the community and disciple kids who do not receive this nurturing at home.

Child Discipleship – How Children Learn

By Wanda Parker

(Now posting on Children’s Ministry at KidTrek Sunday Plus. I will continue to post here on After School Ministries)

“I had to go to the hospital because I had a bug in my stomach,” ten year old Olivia told her Sunday school teacher. When the doctor told her she had a bug his picture of the bug looked very different from the bug Olivia saw.

What we want more than anything is for children to internalize the truths that we are presenting to them. However, how can they do so when we present these abstract truths in ways that their brains can’t yet grasp?


They need to taste, touch, see, hear and smell what is being taught. In other words they need to experience the concept being taught. When the truth is presented in this way it is internalized, the child has an internal understanding that they still can’t put into words.

New studies show us that the teen brain isn’t as developed as once thought but they fool us because of the experiences they have had. They can communicate at a higher level because through living they have internalized concepts.

Elsa, a kindergartener, and her Mom went to visit Grammy.  Upon entering the house Mom said, “Elsa, tell Grammy what the pump is in your body.”

Elsa replied, “My heart.”

“Elsa, tell Grammy what makes you breathe.”  Mom prodded

“My lungs,” Elsa proudly replied.

Grammy quickly asked, “Elsa what does it mean to breathe?”

“I don’t know,” came the hesitant answer

Not to be outdone Mom told Elsa to show Grammy what it meant to breathe.  With that Elsa took two huge intakes of breath.  To put into words what the word “breathe” meant was too abstract.  But Elsa did know what it meant to breathe because she had experienced breathing and thus had internalized the concept. The abstract concept had become concrete to Elsa, she could use the word breathe and know what it meant but she could not explain it.


Our challenge as we present the Biblical concepts is to make them concrete so that the children can understand them.

In Sunday Plus Curriculum we do this through what we call Reality Check. – the first portion of each Kids’ Bible Focus lesson.

Reality Check is intended to bring alive the Biblical truth being taught.  This usually means making abstract concepts concrete – allowing the child to taste, touch, see, hear, and smell the concept being taught.  You are also permitting emotions to become a part of the learning process.  In other words, you are allowing the whole child to experience the truth – bringing reality into the lesson.  The kids will actually experience the concept.

The best way to explain such learning is to give you a couple of examples.


As the children entered the room, there was a large stack of newspapers next to the door.  One of the adults told them they could take the paper and do anything they wanted with it.  However, they were directed towards a table where there was a craft they could make out of the newspaper.

Each child came in and began working on the craft.  After a few minutes, you could almost see the wheels turning in Kevin’s mind as he looked at this “stupid” craft he was working on and then looked over at the stack of newspapers.  He got out of his chair, walked over to the adult, Miss Tish, who was welcoming the children and asked, “Did you say we could do anything we wanted with this paper?”

“That’s right,” she answered.

“You mean I could take and wad up the paper and throw it around the room?” he prodded.

“As long as you don’t hit anyone,” Miss Tish directed.

With that Kevin took one piece of paper after another, wadded it up and threw it across the room.  The other boys, after seeing the fun Kevin was having, didn’t want to work on any “stupid” old craft.  They left the table and joined Kevin in making a mess of the room with the newspaper.  When it was time to clean up the adults helped the children who had been working on the craft.   Those children got their area cleaned up quickly and were given donuts and juice.

“Hey!  How come they are getting donuts and juice?”  Kevin demanded.

“Because they got their mess cleaned up.”  Miss Tish answered.

The whole room was now paying attention to the exchange between Kevin and Miss Tish.

“But you helped them clean up,” Kevin responded

“They were working on the craft,” Miss Tish explained.

“But you said we could do anything we wanted!”  Kevin argued.

“That’s right, and that is called TEMPTATION.” Miss Tish explained.  “In the world people tell you all the time to do whatever you want.  You know what the best things are to do.  You have to make choices.  There are always consequences for the choices we make.  When we give into temptation and choose to do what looks like its more fun or easier, though we know the other choice is the better choice, we will eventually pay the consequence.”

The children were then sat down and immediately told a Bible story which related to temptation.


Miss Marla led the kids in a game of Red Light, Green Light.

The game was played on the honor system.  Miss Marla never turned around.  The winners were given a baggie full of candy, but were told not to open it until the end of class.

Then they had the Bible lesson on honesty after which the adults brought out the video camera that had been secretly recording the children as they played Red Light, Green Light.  Upon playing the video, those children who had cheated had to give their candy back.

Reality Learning also engages the emotions. When does God teach you the most? My experience has been that it has been when he has engaged my emotions – that is when the truth moves from the head to the heart.


Object Lessons

These are both abstract presentations – object lessons in particular.

If you would like to learn how to use Reality Learning in your ministry and also how to create your own I am offering a two hour free training to the first ten people to email me at If you live outside the United States it may mean middle of the night.

Child Discipleship – A Parent’s Challenge Is To Model Faithfulness

By Wanda Parker


If you walk with God He has a purpose for your life. He can open and close any door that is needed to bring you to the place where He wants you to be.

Are you walking fully with Jesus? Are you ready to walk through the doors He opens? Are you ready to accept the doors He closes? Do your children see you accepting God’s purpose for your life? Do you accept where God has you – even if you’d rather be somewhere else? Do you believe that God is sovereign and that He can put you where is best for you?

Do your kids see you modeling a walk with a sovereign God, do they see you trusting Him no matter where He takes you?

The following was first written and sent to friends the day after what I called “A Most Amazing Day.” Life had been VERY difficult and I had been struggling if I should continue in ministry. Everything my husband and I tried slammed shut in our faces. We thought we were about to lose everything. I could hear the mockers in the background, “The Parkers are so foolish.”

Our children were already adults; however I knew we were still modeling.

If you remember my sharing that we received a call two weeks ago from the White House.  Yes it was THE WHITE HOUSE.  It was an invitation to attend a conference on Faith Based Initiatives at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

In speaking to the young man who had called with the invitation I had asked him how he had gotten KidTrek’s name.  He said he wasn’t sure but that someone from the White House staff had laid a note on his desk that said, “Contact this ministry.  It is an incredible ministry that should be at the conference.”

My husband, Joe, and I hemmed and hawed about whether we should take a day to go to a conference from which we believed we could benefit little.  KidTrek does not benefit from Faith Based monies because we flow spiritual truths through every aspect of the ministry.  In fact when I shared KidTrek with the young man at the White House he agreed that we probably wouldn’t be able to receive monies.

The White House caller also told me, “I heard my boss, Jim Touhy (Director of White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives), just last week tell a group to not compromise their faith just to take money.”  This young man urged me in the same way.

After pondering and praying we decided we should go anyway.  We e-mailed our reservations and soon after began receiving daily e-mails (sometimes two a day) about security procedures for the day.

We arrived yesterday morning and soon realized our name tags were a different color from the majority of people.  When the doors were opened and we found a table to sit at in the back of the room someone came up to us and asked, “Why are you sitting back here, you have yellow name tags, you get to sit in the VIP section.”  Joe and I looked at each other in wonderment; we got up and went to the “VIP section” in the front of the auditorium.

Sitting at a table I asked the others sitting there, “Were you called by the White House?” “No” was the answer from everyone. I wondered, why was I called, how did they get KidTrek’s name?

The young woman who introduced the day to us also shared that not only would her boss Jim Touhy be joining us in the afternoon but also the President of the United States.

After the morning sessions we were to pick up a box lunch and go back into the auditorium.  By the time Joe and I got into the auditorium almost all the seats in the “VIP section” were taken.  We were about ready to go to the back section when Joe noticed a table in the front corner that maybe had a couple of places.  He walked over and those already seated moved closer and made room for us.  As I sat down and looked at the name tags I realized we were sitting at a table of White House staff.

The next thing I knew the morning’s presenter sat down next to me and engaged me in a conversation.

Then “Hail to the Chief” blared and the words, “Welcome the President of the United States.”

Response to his entry was amazing.  It was such a mixed group of people, but everyone rose to their feet and cheered.  His words were powerful.  Mainly he was one human, sharing his own failings, his own hopes with a group of other humans full of failings and hopes.  He challenged us to not give up on the visions that God has given us.

At the end we realized we were in the section that was allowed to go and speak to the President. I hung back, the gentleman next to me said, “Don’t you want to speak to the President?” I smiled and said, “No, this day isn’t about him. My Heavenly Father is showing me He can open any door He wants.”

I wiped away tears, my feeling of overwhelmedness was not over standing in the presence of the President of the United States, it was my awe of how the Sovereign God of the Universe had opened doors to bring me into the presence of the most powerful human in the world. God had opened doors so that I had permission to approach the President and speak with him.

The last speaker was Jim Touhy.  In his earlier life He had served with Mother Teresa and he quoted her,

“I am not called to success,
I am called to faithfulness.”

For me, that is what yesterday was all about.

As I stood there with the tears running down my face I knew beyond a doubt that God was in control. If we did lose everything God had a purpose and a plan in it. My task was to submit to God almighty and accept what was best for me – not what I wanted.

When you walk with God He opens and closes the doors that will bring you to the best place possible for you.

Your children are watching how you handle the opening and closing of those doors.

[1] Parenting Tips are written by Wanda Parker, Founder/Director of KidTrek, from her experience as a Children’s/Family Pastor, but more importantly from raising three children who today have their own families all of whom walk with the Lord.

Child Discipleship – Why It Takes A Church To Raise A Child

(I am now Blogging on Children’s Ministry issues at If you are interested in the topic below you may be interested in reading one step we use to make this happen DISCIPLERS AND SPECIALISTS)


Years ago I was told of study where they took adult siblings who had grown up in Christian homes and one had walked away from the Lord while the other continued to walk with the Lord.  The question they were asking was “Why?”

I think that when they began they thought they would learn that it was something that happened within the home.

BUT!  What they learned was that the sibling who walked away from the Lord had never felt connected to the local church growing up.

The sibling who continued to walk with the Lord into adulthood had close connections with adults within the local body of Christ other than mom and dad. She had experienced child discipleship.

In other words he was discipled by members of the church other than mom and dad.  He felt he was ESSENTIAL TO THE CHURCH because of these intentional relationships.

Discipled means involvement with the kid in and out of church. It means commitment and intentionality on the parts of adults.

Why is this connection to the local church as a child so important?

Statistics today show that we are losing 70% of our church raised kids. That means your child(ren) is at risk of walking away from the Lord.

Kids need to hear the gospel message from you, but also from other adults with whom they have a trusting relationship. Each time they hear the truth from someone else with whom they have a relationship it builds a lasting credibility. By the time kids are in their teens it is already too late.

A medical student told her mother, “It would be easy to accept what I am being taught, though it is against Biblical teaching. But then I stop and realize that everyone I respect believes the Bible, not what is being taught at the University.”  Today she has her own family and not only disciples her own children, but pours herself into the lives of others’ children.

This is the challenge – if you want your children to be discipled by others then you must be willing to disciple someone else’s child.

You have the opportunity to add yourself to the team at your church, be determined that not one child within your church is going to slip through the cracks.



KidTrek’s Sunday Plus Children’s Ministry Curriculum is aimed at getting the whole church involved in the Discipleship of Children. Explanation of Curriculum via the Curriculum Guide here

[2] Essential Church?, Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer III, B&H Publishing Group, page 3

Child Discipleship – My Priorities for Children’s Ministry

(I am now writing in regard to Children’s Ministry at  I will continue writing in regard to Christian After School Programs here

Whether we’ve thought about it or not every Children’s Ministry has priorities. A visitor might be able to tell you what the priorities are faster than the Children’s Pastor/Director.

My Priorities


Jesus is the reason for having a Children’s Ministry. He is the umbrella over everything we do.

The umbrella over the entire ministry also includes continual, intentional, organized prayer – for if the triune God is not a part of everything we do our ministry is useless.

Every portion of the Children’s ministry shall individualistically and intentionally point to the Gospel message…

  • So that kids “will come to the crucified King in repentance and faith, relying on him alone as the perfect sacrifice for their sin and their only hope for salvation” What’s in the Gospel Greg Gilbert
  • So that kids will continually grow in their walk with God as they grow to internally (heart knowledge) know Him more fully.

The below order is based on what I believe kids need – not what they want, nor what will make adults feel good.


For the above to happen kids must come to Children’s Ministry gatherings with excitement and openness of heart. They may not know why they are there but they want to be there.

Thus every adult involved in the children’s ministry asks over and over, “Will “this” be fun, challenging, relational, and is there potential for life transformation to happen?”

Is the Body of Christ becoming essential to “this” child so he will want to continue to be a part of the Church for his entire life?

Are we running programs or ministry?


Leadership encourages an environment which kids long to be a part of – not just for today but on into adulthood. The Body of Christ becomes an essential part of the kids’ lives forever.

Leadership is aware of each child that comes into their ministry – they are unwilling that any shall fall through the cracks.

Leadership is aware of Jesus’ warning of Matthew 18:1-14 and takes it seriously.

The adults who serve the children are the ones who create the environment where kids love to be.

  • Adults want to be there too.
  • Adults are teachable – they want to be trained, they see the need for training.
  • Adults have a passion to see children grow into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
  • Adults know and understand child development so they know how children learn.
  • Each kid receives individualistic and intentional discipleship.
  • Adults are willing to make sacrifices so the kids will receive the most excellent ministry possible.
  • Adults and kids have fun.
  • Adults understand that though kids are having fun it doesn’t mean they are internally connecting to Jesus Christ.
  • The facility itself is kid friendly – adults don’t have to continually be fearful in case the kids “mar the room.”
  • Every single kid is welcomed with a love that can be felt, but also is concrete.
  • The need of each individual kid is accepted and addressed.


If the above is happening in your children’s ministry then the kids will have hearts that are open to hear the truth – to study Bible.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Every teaching points to the Gospel – The Truth, The Way, The Life.

The Bible is presented to concrete thinking children so they can understand and internalize the truth in the scripture. I’m passionate about this – so much of what we present to the kids flies over their heads – will address this in weeks to come.

It is understood that knowledge does not save; knowledge is a tool that leads to A relationship. However, knowledge is vital for kids to grow in their relationship of God Almighty. Knowledge helps in their not accepting man made gods.


We don’t know how long we will have access to the written Word of God.

I will never forget the day I stood with a friend in the square in Havana waiting for a bus. We began talking to a woman in front us when I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit and I asked her, “Do you have a Bible?”

“A Bible, a Bible in Cuba? No, no Bibles in Cuba.”

I knew my friend had a Spanish Bible in her purse so I asked, “Would you like to have a Bible?”

She began to cry, “Si, Si” she said over and over.

It was as if we were in a bubble as we quickly took the Bible from one purse and transferred it to another purse.

Just because you live in a free country today we know not what tomorrow will bring. We must equip our children so they will be prepared. We must make sure they are memorizing the scriptures so they will never be with out them.

Let me know what you think of my priorities.

I’m now writing in regard to Children’s Ministry at KidTrek: Sunday Plus  I will continue to write about After School Ministries here.

Child Discipleship – What Are The Priorities Within Your Children’s Ministry?

By Wanda Parker

Whether you’ve thought about it or not every Children’s Ministry has a set of priorities. A visitor might be more aware of what the priorities are than the Children’s Pastor/Director. Observe the gatherings throughout your children’s ministry this coming week. Then …



Jesus Christ

Bible Knowledge


Memory Verses

I will give you my priorities next week. As a Children’s Pastor this was one of the first exercises I took Children’s Ministry volunteers through.