Episode 187: Megan Hill Interview and the Importance of Community

This week we have a compelling conversation with Megan Hill about some key elements in living the Christian life and helping our children embrace their faith.

Our Guest: Megan Hill

Megan Hill is the managing editor for The Gospel Coalition, a pastor’s wife, and the author of several books for adults and Meg Is Not Alone, a book for kids. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children, where they belong to West Springfield Covenant Community Church (PCA).

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Show Notes/Transcript with Links:

Terrie (00:09):

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship, every day sparking important conversations with our children. We all want to see the next generation on fire for God, but life is so busy and seems to take all our energy just to get through the day. How can we disciple our children well? Well, part of that is taking every opportunity with every book we read to speak to our children and to have them talk with us, opening up those conversations with our kids, whatever we’re reading, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, that’s the key to discipling our children from day one. If you’re feeling inadequate or overwhelmed or like you don’t know enough to disciple your kids, I promise you, you have the answers they need. So now let’s join the conversation talking about some more books that will bless you and your kids. Well, I’m so excited today to introduce you to our guest. Megan Hill is with us today, and I’m a huge fan. Megan, thank you for joining us today.

Megan (01:12):

Thanks so much for having me, Terrie.

Terrie (01:15):

Well, I absolutely love your book and so do my kids, even though they’re grown up, we always read picture books to them because of my podcast, and they just love your book. I think because they were pastor’s kids and grew up in the church, they know what it’s like to accidentally be left behind.

Megan (01:32):

Yeah, yeah.

Terrie (01:34):

So tell us about this wonderful picture book.

Megan (01:38):

Yeah, so I wrote Meg Is Not Alone based on a true experience that I had One Sunday when I was maybe four or five years old. My parents got their wires crossed and they both left church and they left me there at church. And when I figured out that they had gone, then some other people in the church came around me. They comforted me and they called my parents. They took care of me, and that really was the first time in my life that I realized that the people of the church were there for me. They weren’t just there for my parents, they weren’t just there for adults, they were there for me. Looking back on that experience, it was hugely transformative for me to have that experience of being left and then realizing I wasn’t alone. So I tell that story about a little girl named Meg in the book and what happens to her when her parents leave and then the church family comes and surrounds her and takes care of her.

Terrie (02:37):

I love it. Then she also gets to help another little boy who starts feeling sad. So she sees that she can be a part of ministry as well, and I just think that’s a wonderful part of the story too.

Megan (02:49):

Yeah, there is something to kids coming into that realization that people are here to serve me. Yes. But also I have this opportunity to serve as well.

Terrie (02:58):

Yeah, it is just such a great book and the artwork is so adorable. Remind me of the illustrator’s name.

Megan (03:07):

Yeah, it’s Samara Hardy and she has illustrated all the books in the series. So it’s part of this series that’s TGC Kids books that’s published by Crossway and each one of them is a story. They’re not bible story books or retelling of biblical stories, but they’re a story with a plot and characters, and yet each one of them teaches kids and the parents who are reading to them some biblical truths, some scriptural truths that is helpful for young hearts to hear. Samara Hardy does a great job and she’s illustrated all of them. And in fact, in some of them you’ll see cameos by other characters in the series, which kids have told me is so much fun for them to look at each book in the series and see if they can find the characters from the other books hidden somewhere in the story.

Terrie (03:50):

That’s great. Yeah, we talked about your book on the episode when we interviewed Betsy. We talked about your book and other books in the series. I just think they’re all fantastic and love that the stories are so relatable. I love that. I didn’t realize she had put the characters in each other’s books. That’s fun. Okay, so you talk a lot about the importance of church for our children. I’m a pastor’s wife, you’re a pastor’s wife, and I know quite a few of my listeners are minister’s wives and how do we help, especially the pastor’s kids to love church and to keep being involved. I know with my kids, the hardest part was dad not being pastor and having to find a church where dad wasn’t the pastor and they were just members of a church and living in the fishbowl for a while. But how do we help instill in them the importance of church and the love for church?

Megan (04:48):

Yeah, I think that’s a great question. I’m sure it’s a question that pastor’s wives are asking, but I’m sure it’s also a question that your listeners who aren’t pastor’s wives are asking. So yeah, I think it’s a great question to ask. I will say I am a pastor’s daughter, so my own experience as a kid was that my parents’ example was hugely influential for me, and I always say that my parents made serving the church seem like a good life. And yes, there are certainly challenges. Yes, there are really hard things that can happen in the church. It can be long hours, little reward, criticism, expectations and all the things, but they fundamentally communicated to me this is a good life being poured out for Christ and his church is a good life. And that had an impact on me. Then as I grew up, I believed that the church was a good place to be and even for all its hardship that it was worth it for Christ’s sake because this is the church that Christ loves.

Megan (05:44):

So we get an opportunity to love it too. I do think there are practical things that particularly pastors families can do for their kids just in shielding them in some ways from people’s outsized expectations, making it clear to our children that what we expect of them is that they would follow Jesus. And part of following Jesus is loving and serving his church, but we don’t expect them to love and serve the church because their pastor’s kids, we expect them to love and serve the church because they follow Jesus. And that’s just what people who follow Jesus do. So I think at times it’s, Hey, you know, I know Mrs. Smith thinks that you have to do X, Y or Z and you don’t have to do X, Y, or Z because Mrs. Smith says, but maybe the Lord would have you do that and that’s a way that you can serve and that would be a great thing. But don’t worry about Mrs. Smith. You worry about what the Lord’s calling you to do here.

Terrie (06:37):

I love that. I heard Charles Stanley speak once about, there was a lady in the church who was very critical, and of course Andy Stanley when he was young was not the most dedicated pastor’s kid and he, and I think it was Giglio, I can’t think of his first name, but they would sneak out during Sunday school and go to the local little place to eat snacks or whatever. So this lady was very upset about it and wanted Charles Stanley to do something about that. I can’t remember the whole story, but as they were in the car driving home, the mom and dad were talking about this and Andy Stanley was overhearing their conversation. Charles Stanley said, I’m not going to put expectations on my kid beyond what a normal kid would have. And he comes to church and he’s involved, and at this little shop they went to, apparently they could even watch the service and stuff from there.

Terrie (07:27):

So even when they skipped out, they were still exposed to the service. Andy Stanley said for him it was a defining moment that he mattered more than the ministry. And I thought that was so beautiful. because that’s something I always wanted my children to understand, that our relationship came first, the ministry came second, and our relationship with God was of course, first and foremost, they seem to have come through without too many scars, and Henry Blackaby said the same thing, that he tried to protect his kids and show them this was a good life, this was a good thing. And even in the challenges that we still are serving God, just like you said, and I thought those kinds of attitudes really affect children. Them seeing you struggle and have such a hard time sometimes is damaging to what they think of church. And I did have one point where things were really rough when we were overseas and my kids said, why are some people so mean?

Terrie (08:25):

So we talked about that. Yeah, some people are mean, but look at the vast majority. It was like we had 700 people who were fantastic and three who were mean. Kind of helping them to get perspective I think is important. Whether we’re in the ministry or just part of the congregation and doing lay ministry, helping our children understand the joy of service and the joy of fellowship is so vital. Oh, I also wanted to talk about your other books because even though we focus mostly on children’s books on books that spark, I’d really love what you’ve written and I want our parents to be aware of what you have. So could you just go over a few, highlight a couple of your other books that you have available?

Megan (09:09):

Yeah, sure. I mean, I have several books that are sort of related in some ways. My first book was Praying Together and it’s about corporate prayer, so praying in our families and in our churches and in our communities. Then I have one called A Place to Belong, which is again for adults, but is about the beauty of the local church and going through sort of what the scripture says about the local church. I have a book of meditations for pastors and elders wives that’s called Partners in the Gospel, and it’s 50 meditations just about the joys and challenges of ministry life. And they’re just one page meditation reflections on a passage of scripture and some help for people who are in ministry. And I have a devotional and contentment as well that has been pretty well received. It’s called Contentment, Seeing God’s Goodness and is 31 days for someone who’s wanting to work on the grace of contentment. And that’s when I feel like I probably should read myself quite frequently.

Terrie (10:04):

It’s so needed in our culture today. Oh my goodness. I think that’s been one of my biggest struggles as a Christian, is finding contentment in just life and being content with what God has given us and where he has us. And yeah, I think that’s vital. So good. Okay, I saw you wrote this one wonderful little article about “25 Tiny Ways to Welcome Kids in Church,” and I just would love if you would share a little bit about that.

Megan (10:33):

Yeah, sure. So just even through my own experience and through then I have four children and three of them are in high school now, and then I have a little girl who’s six. So I have sort of both ends of the spectrum in my home, but just even through their experiences, just seeing the very small things that people in the church did to welcome them and that they did for me when I was younger as well. I think sometimes it can be intimidating. I mean, we’re part of a very small church. We get 20 people on a Sunday, so it’s not by any stretch a large church. So it means that we have children’s ministries, we have Children’s Sunday school, we have a children’s program on Wednesday nights, but it’s never going to be to the level of some churches that have a lot of kids programming.

Megan (11:20):

Right. And yet, I think that the thing that often makes a difference for kids and their experience in the church is just the fact that people know their names, which is something that a church of any size can do. You as an adult in the church can make an effort to learn the kids’ names and to say hi to them by name. The fact that people paid attention to what they were interested in and asked them the next week about that movie or that show or that toy or that whatever, that they were excited about the previous week to follow up these things, communicate to kids, we see you, you’re important. The fact that people in our church ask my kids to do stuff, Hey, could you help move these chairs? Hey, would you be willing to pass out these sheets that need to be passed out?

Megan (12:07):

Hey, would you be able to hold this door because we’re going to be bringing some people through here or whatever. Just even little things that they’re capable of doing. And just for somebody to see them and say, you’re useful in this church and here’s some work for you to do, that means so much to kids. I think there are just a myriad of ways that people in the church can make kids feel like they belong and they’re important. And it doesn’t even have to be fancy programming. It can just be little things that individuals decide they’re going to do.

Terrie (12:39):

I think that’s so wonderful to help a child know that they’re welcome there. Even just shaking their hand, at the greeting time can really speak volumes to a child because I’ve seen some churches where people are afraid of sticky hands and germs. They just don’t welcome the kids, and it breaks your heart. I think like you say, a smile, just acknowledging that they’re there and they’re important, I think is a wonderful gift we give our children. And really honestly, I think it’s way more important than all the programs in a lot of ways. Yeah, we had a large church, but we didn’t have that many children in our church because of being overseas. We had mostly expat community, so a lot of the families didn’t have their kids there, so my kids were like one of seven in a church of 700 people.

Terrie (13:28):

So that was rough for them. But when they were accepted and brought in and involved in different things, it just made them so happy. And my kids, three of my four are on the autism spectrum. And you know, Asperger kids, they have a topic that they know everything about and love to talk about it endlessly. And one of the churches we were in, I saw so many people who just would let them talk, would ask them about their topic that they knew they loved, and let them talk and not act annoyed because they were telling them everything they knew about that particular topic. And that meant so much to me, and it made my kids love church. We had one man in one of our churches, he had worked for Disney as an illustrator and he had a little tablet that he used to draw his cartoons.

Terrie (14:19):

And my oldest daughter loves to draw and he gave her one of his old tablets that he didn’t use anymore. because he said, I think you would enjoy this. I mean, it changed everything for her to not only acknowledge her art and her love for art, but that he would give her that and that he believed in her. And I mean, it changed her whole attitude about church and everything. It was really interesting to watch. So I think we have a lot of ways we can really encourage kids. And I just love this article. I will put the link in the show notes so people can actually see the article as well. I love your passion for that. I love your passion for helping everyone to understand the importance of church. My husband often says from the pulpit that there are a whole lot of commands in the Bible we cannot even obey if we’re not involved in a community of believers. And I think you talked about that a little bit in one of your articles as well. Why is church so important in our walk with God?

Megan (15:17):

Yeah, I mean, it’s the society that God has given us, right? If you think about the pattern of scripture and you think about the people in scripture, none of the Godly people in scripture were ever on their own as it were, that God always calls people to himself and then he gives, in the Old Testament, he gives them a family and a nation in the New Testament. Then we see he gives them the church, he saves people, and then he adds them to the church over and over again. He saves people, he adds them to his society, he adds them to his family. He adds them to his nation or his church. That’s how the Lord has designed it is for us to be in this community. And you’re right, that then we’re called to care for one another and Bible gives us this great picture of the church as the body, the body of Christ.

Megan (16:08):

That one part can’t say to the other part, I have no need of you. Right? In First Corinthians, all of the parts, it says even the weaker parts are indispensable. And I think that’s where we come to children in the church. They’re the weaker parts of the body, and yet the scripture tells us that they’re indispensable, that they’re necessary for us. I always think of the passage of Jesus’s triumphal entry on Palm Sunday when he was going in and the people were shouting, Hosanna and the gospels tell us that the children were among those who were shouting, hosanna, laying down their cloaks and waving the palm branches that the Pharisees said, make those children be quiet. But Jesus quotes from the Psalm, he says, haven’t you read out of the mouths of children and infants, you have ordained praise and that the Lord has a valuable place, a necessary place for the prayers and praises of children even in his kingdom, and that the Lord accepts those and that there’s a sense in which we all need those as well. We need to hear the children next to us singing in worship, and we need to hear what they’re thinking about the things of the Lord, what they’re learning, and we want to hear their memory verses and we want to talk to them about what they’ve read in the Bible because that encourages our soul and points us to Christ as well.

Terrie (17:25):

That’s beautiful. I love that. Well, thank you, Megan, so much for sharing with us today. This has been wonderful. I feel so encouraged by everything you’ve talked about and excited for the next generation, if we can help them understand how important they are in the body of Christ. I love that. Thank you so much.

Megan (17:45):

Thanks so much for having me, Terrie.

Terrie (17:48):

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” where we encourage each other to grasp those teachable moments sparked by great books and to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share so people know we’re here and leave comments on one of the podcast host sites. We truly appreciate you. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment on terriehellardbrown.com. We love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question. We pray you feel empowered to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Other articles about our children and church by Megan you may want to check out:

Get Your Kids Ready for Church in 5, 15, or 30 Minutes

“Megan Hill on Why Church Is Good for Kids”

“Help! My Kids Don’t Like Church”

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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