How do you teach your kids to serve?

How do you teach your kids to serve? Take them with you!serving lightbulb

In back to back publishing days, our local paper, The News Enterprise, featured an article by my mom & a picture of me. She was advocating for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for kids struggling to make it. I was in a group picture of our RITI (Room In The Inn) board receiving a large check from our local Heritage Council.

The connection? Serving.  Along the way my mom and dad taught me to serve. How do you teach your kids to serve? Take them with you.

Along the way, there were lessons in school, Sunday School, civic events and graduation speeches about serving others. All of that is helpful but the #1 way I learned about serving others was from my parents.

Serving is who my parents are, so that’s what we did. And we were along for the ride. Their actions were punctuated with words like help, drive, donate, provide, take, give, love, and share. Serving was, and still is, the overflow of their hearts.

Little wonder that while serving together recently, my dad was bragging to me about the folks in our church helping the community by parking cars in the pouring rain. All the while, he is jumping in & out of the van to help load & unload families:  in the same pouring rain & mud—at 77 years old! It never occurred to him that he was performing a great service too. Serving is just who he is, so it is what he does.

As a college kid I was attracted to Lee Ann’s beauty and charm. One of the beauties of her soul was the way she served others: a very poor mother had to ride the bus from Louisville to Bowling Green  in the hopes her daughter could attend college. Lee Ann cared for them all day & gave them a ride back to the bus station. It’s who she is so it is what she does.

When I met her family what did I find to be true? Yep. They were active in serving church and community.

Lee Ann’s hero in life is her grandfather, Oran C. Teater, whom she simply called Ghee. A retired school teacher, coach and superintendent, he still substitute taught well into his 80’s. All the kids loved this stately, jovial, white-haired gentleman. His last day on earth he stopped by the school office to make sure that one particular kid was getting the help he needed. He just wanted to make sure he was not going to fall behind.

At our church leadership retreat I was about to present new ways for our church to serve. Moments before, I received the name and picture of a 100 year-old woman from my daughter. Her leadership group at UofL just finished taping plastic over her drafty windows as winter approaches. Ghee, your granddaughter and namesake captured your serving spirit!

Last Saturday churches banned together through Helping Hand of Hope to deliver 100’s of boxes of food & toys to our community. As I helped load the vans, trucks & SUV’s I saw plenty of little ones in car seats and teenagers helping to lift the boxes.  serve-with-kids.jpg

What a joy to see! Some of these kids were wide-eyed with excitement; others, sleepy-eyed and not sure what their parents were doing & why they were up so early. Good job parents! Your example speaks volumes and will echo in the actions of your kids.

And as we serve, our action connects with something far deeper. It is our Savior Jesus who came to serve and not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

So, how do you teach our kids to serve? Take them with you!

Daryl Pepper

Pastor of Missions

Grace Heartland Church


Lord, Show Me Your Glory! A prayer for the overwhelmed

glory-wordMoses prays this short but intense prayer, “Lord, show me your glory!” (Exodus 33:18). Why? The Lord assured Moses of his presence and favor. Even so, Moses pleads, “Please show me your glory.” And the Lord passes before him.

Lord, show me your glory. It is a prayer for the overwhelmed. Like Moses, we need to be reassured of the presence of God. Like Moses, we yearn to see the presence of God.

This is the prayer lurking behind every longing of every soul walking into church. Behind the impulses to have a warm feeling, a better marriage, a word of hope: Lord, show me your glory.

Let’s get specific.

Let me see your glory . . .

In my marriage. Lord, if we are going to make it for the long haul, let me see your glory in my marriage. Help me to look beyond my spouse, beyond her strengths and weaknesses, beyond her attraction, beyond her own unsettled soul. Let me see your glory that I draw near to you and to her.

In my church. Let me see your glory in the brilliant reflection on the faces of my brothers and sisters. Your glory in their tears and in their laughter. Your glory in the radiance of your Scripture spoken and sung and prayed. Let me see your glory.glory-sunburst

In the glory of Your Son. Moses prayed to see God’s glory. Jesus prays, “Father, glorify your name.” God replies, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:28). In seeing the life of Jesus we see glory accomplished. Glory secured. And that’s just the point. We get to see His glory.

Lord, show me your glory.

Daryl Pepper, Associate Pastor

Meet Josefina & Aaron—Compassion Kids

Aaron's family medMeet Josefina Alejandro (about 5) and her brother Aaron (18 months) and their mother. I’m pictured in their home in the Leon area of Nicaragua. Josefina and Aaron are both sponsored by families through Compassion International. It was a blessing to have a picture made with them.

To make ends meet this mom makes and sells ice cream in a local market. It is a trade, a craft, but not enough to pay the bills. She lives in a two-room flat with an older child (not pictured). Her husband left the family some time ago.

The apartment belongs to her mother-in-law and is nice for that area—red-clay tiled floors, artwork scattered about the family room, a small TV, 3-burner cooktop, and a small refrigerator. A fan was blowing on us as we sat in plastic chairs. Air conditioning is not to be found in these neighborhoods.

slumsThe tidy apartment is a refuge from the surrounding area—dirt roads and paths, trash embedded in the soil everywhere, most homes constructed from scrap wood and sheet metal.


slums clotheslinePeople wander the streets. Many of them are young men due to a high unemployment rate. A motorbike rattles by. Dogs chase each other. A chicken crosses the road. Children stare.

Back in their home, the clothes are clean, the floor is swept. The local Compassion team helped us to know what gifts to bring. Things that will be well received and appropriate; helpful but not demeaning: toys and candies, kitchen hand towels, paper products, and foods.

Aaron's family 2 medThe mother’s greatest prayer request, she said, is for Aaron. He is a hemophiliac. She prays he will be able to get the needed medical care, that he will grow up to be strong, that he can live as normal a life as possible. Thanks to the gifts of Compassion International, his medical needs are being met.

We prayed with her, for her family, for their church, and for Aaron’s continual treatment. A member of our group quietly donated $40 USD to the local Compassion office for any of the needs Aaron or the family has. Considering that the average worker in Nicaragua makes $1.25 USD/day, that gift will help significantly.

I was humbled to meet this dear sister in Christ and her children. As we visited, little Aaron fell asleep in her arms for his afternoon nap.

Walking away, we also rested—in the arms of our Savior. We rest knowing that his love for them is real, knowing that he holds them in his arms, knowing that some families in another part of the world, a group called Compassion, and a local church are the very real arms of Jesus for them.

Daryl Pepper, Associate Pastor

Compassion & Confidence ~ Meet the children of Nicaragua


Emily, my warm welcome!

Emily was just one sweet face among the gaggle of about 50 kids that greeted us as our Toyota micro-bus pulled into the Missionary Community Restoration Church. But she was the one that I couldn’t help notice—with my name boldly printed in all caps on bright construction paper and hanging around her neck. It was a clever way for us to be paired up to meet a child.

She was bright, energetic, healthy, full of smiles, and beaming brown eyes. I asked about her age, family, and favorite things to do. I told her of my own daughter, about her same age, and showed her a picture of my family. And of course, we had to get our own picture together—which she promptly wanted to see on the screen.


Emily’s friends put on a show for us—dancing in dresses that would be the envy of many a mamma in the States. They ‘d rehearsed every step and verse and were proud to perform.

dancer group

Our group, 25 church leaders from all over the U.S., were guests of  Compassion International. The purpose of this vision trip was to get boots on the ground to see how they fulfill their mission: “releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.”

Our locale for 3 days was Nicaragua—visiting outposts in its capital city of Managua, then as far north as the mountains of Leon, and as far south as charming city of Granada nestled on Lake Nicaragua.

Confidence is one of the main things Compassion gives to these kids. Compassion sponsors send a monthly donation to support the clothing, education, food and gospel nourishment for a child or children.

But one of the main things that struck me about all of these kids is their confidence. Sure, like all kids, they might be a bit shy at first, but they quickly warmed up and were quick to sing, speak, and engage with us.

feed children blue table.jpg

Lunchtime on a classroom table


Classroom, 2 of the walls are open-air

It was easy to see why they radiate with beauty. Compassion cares for these kids in 4 major ways. By partnering with a local church, they provide for their cognitive (school), physical (to include medical), socio-emotional, and spiritual needs. Holistic is the best way to describe this beautiful partnership.


Pastor Rodriguez

To say we were impressed with the ministry of Compassion partnering with Pastor Rodriguez and the staff at Missionary Community Restoration Church, is an understatement. We’d soon find out that the half had not been told to us. The rest of the story could only be seen by walking through the “neighborhoods” these kids live in.

And, that’s a story for the next post!

Daryl Pepper, Associate Pastor, Grace Heartland Church, Elizabethtown KY

2 girls

Worship Better Together

fam-worship-cartoonThere’s something really beautiful about gathering with family and worshiping together. Growing up, I remember sitting in “big church” with my parents most Sundays. I was raised in a very small church, and we didn’t have the staff or resources to always do separate programs for children. So each Sunday our family filled a pew. I sang songs I didn’t fully understand. I listened to sermons and Scripture readings that went a bit over my head. I watched my parents and other adults worship.

I knew these people. They were my family.

This Easter we are inviting all of our families to worship together. This is an opportunity to see our church family at its finest. This weekend we will get to see everyone in their most natural state—mothers with crying babies, dads with preschoolers hanging on their legs, and then there’s the noise. The crying and talking, and even whining, remind me that this is family. It’s unfiltered and it’s beautiful.

I trust that this weekend will be very helpful for our children. It’s a chance for them to watch their church family worship. They will ask lots of questions about what they saw, learned and misunderstood.

My encouragement to us all this Easter is to savor it. Listen to the extra noises. Watch the children running around. Allow your heart to be blessed by the untidiness and unpredictability that is family. Let us think of it not as a distraction but as a reminder that as a church we are family. And, by the Lord’s grace, this will be a sweet time for families to worship together and will open the door to deeper conversations.

For an Easter Family Devotional to help you continue the conversation at home click here.

Adam Castenir, Children’s Pastor

Family Worship

Perhaps the idea of taking your kids with you into a worship service senfamilyworshipds fear through you – the thought of your child squirming in their seats or making too much noise. So why would we ask you to do this, and on Easter Sunday?

Each weekend, families come through the church doors and head off to their different areas of ministry: Preschoolers to their room, elementary-aged kids to their rooms, while their parents attend worship services with other adults.

There is a lot to be said for doing things this way. We do it for the same reason restaurants offer a kids menu. Most second graders just don’t need a rack of baby back ribs and would honestly prefer a smaller portion of chicken fingers. Dividing families up helps kids and adults receive ministry in environments where they can best be ministered to. Everyone is taught and ministered to in a manner that more accurately engages individual hearts and minds according to where each person is developmentally.

There are some inherent problems with this approach, though. When families are consistently broken up, they lose opportunities to worship together with the rest of the church family. Kids don’t get to watch their parents and other adults worship the Lord, and kids and parents hear different messages. This makes taking the conversation from church to home a challenge, and teaching opportunities are lost.

girl-prayingWith this in mind, we want to invite all of our families to join us for a family worship experience on Easter Sunday, with services in the Worship Center and the Family Life Center at 9, 10:15, and 11:30. On Easter Sunday, we will not have our normal children’s programs for children ages 3 and up. Instead, we encourage families with children of all ages to worship together in service. It will be a time for families to celebrate together.

Services will be oriented towards adults with the awareness that kids are in the room. In doing this, we hope to provide an environment where kids and adults will hear the same message, participate in the same activities and worship together. By the Lord’s grace, this will be a sweet time for families to worship together and will open the door to deeper conversations.

For an Easter Family Devotional to help you continue the conversation at home click here.

Adam Castenir, Children’s Pastor

Numbering Our Days: Wisdom for the New Year!

“Happy New Year!”  “Happy 2016!” New-Year-Baby

A new year? Already? Ready or not, 2016 is here.  And, we can’t help being stirred to consider who we are and what we are doing as a new year greets us.

Let’s me invite you to join in a New Year’s ritual: taking a look at Psalm 90 as a guide for prayer and seeking God to live with wisdom in this new year.

Here’s the clincher of the Psalm: So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).  This piece of sage advice falls right after this truth:  The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away (v. 10).

number-our-daysBut, how, exactly, do we number our days? Even if you don’t like math, it’s easy to apply this formula . . .

70 years – your current age. What do you get?

  • Let’s say you are 40. Here goes: 70-40=30.
  • Are you 50?  70-50=20.
  • 70 – (your current age) = # of days you have left

Of course, if you are above 70 years, go with the other age listed, 80 – your current age?  Older than 80!  Yahoo! Congratulations on being blessed with so many years.

But, going back to our examples, what if you have only X (whatever you came up with above) years to live?  Here’s a few great life questions to ask:

If I only have __X__ years to live, and I want to live with a “heart of wisdom” . . . wisdom

  • How can I best use these days to draw near to God & trust him in all things?
  • How can I best use these days to pursue and improve my relationships?
  • How can I best use these days to do my work for God’s glory?

What other questions come to your mind? Maybe they are about your health, work, rest, children, parents, friendships, projects, goals, desires?

Wisdom continues to flow from Psalm 90 . . .

What should we yearn for? Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! (v. 13).

Where can we find satisfaction? Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days (v. 14).

How can we be glad?  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil (v. 15).

How should we raise our children?  Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children (v. 16).

How should we pray?  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (v. 17).

Happy 2016!

Daryl Pepper, Associate Pastor, Grace Heartland Church

Homeless in the Heartland?

What? Homeless in our area? etown_sign-06

We can all admit that we live in a wonderful part of the country. Not a small town anymore, but we really don’t have the traffic and problems of a bigger city. It’s a beautiful setting with good schools, churches, and community spirit.

And, because of Ft. Knox, factories, businesses, and being a regional medical provider, we have good employment overall.

So, sometimes it is hard for us to consider that there are homeless in our community.


Where Are the Homeless?

If you have eyes to see, you will be able to find them. Maybe on your drive to and from work, church or the kids’ school? They live . . .

  • under the I-65 overpasses,
  • behind Warm Blessings soup kitchen in the woods that surround Buffalo Lake (a track of land behind 31W South and extends to the area behind the hotels and restaurants at Exit 94),
  • behind the public library, and
  • downtown under the bridge and along the stream by the Justice Center.

Who are the homeless?

The homeless are typically men. It’s true–many of them became homeless because of addictions. But not all. Some made poor financial decisions then lost their job, then lost their home.

Some of them live out of their car–like a lady who recently contacted us that she is living in her car with her 2 kids.

Another instance is a man and wife who walked to town for medical care for her pregnancy and returned to find that their tent and belongings stolen!

Some homeless are not in the streets. They crash on a friend’s couch, stay with a family member as long as they can, then move on to another situation.  Life is transient. Hard. Exhausting.

Thankfully, RITI is coming to town!Room in the Inn

Room In The Inn (RITI) already runs in Nashville, Bowling Green, Lexington and other cities.  RITI does not solve homelessness. But, it does some major things.

  • RITI helps the homeless.  During the coldest months of the year, December -January -February, it provides a warm and safe place to spend the night.
  • RITI binds together local agencies and churches. Warm Blessings, Red Cross, Helping Hand of HOPE and St. Vincent De Paul are partnering with about 12 churches in our area.
  • RITI increases our awareness. Riding in a van, sharing a few meals, and having conversations together allow us to see that “the homeless” are real people with real names and real needs. They are our neighbors and, when they come to our church, they become our guests.
  • RITI assesses needs. We may not solve their homelessness. But, the leadership of our RITI Elizabethtown works to identify the homeless, assess their individual or family needs, and seeks to connect these needs with the resources already available in our area.

RITI provides shelter, safety, showers, rest/sleep, peace of mind, dignity, three meals, the love of Christ.

v1_300dpiWant to learn more? Want to sign-up to help? Follow this link for details and be sure to scroll all the way down to launch the sign-up form:

Daryl Pepper is Associate Pastor, director of Grace Unleashed, and serves on the steering committee for Room In The Inn.


Trunk or Treat: More Than Just An Event

trunk or treat flyer 2015

It’s that time of year when we invite members of our church to fill the parking lot with cars covered by DIY costumes and pack their trunks with candy corn and peanut butter cups. Trunk or Treat provides a fun, safe activity for kids and families in our community, but it is about so much more than that!

Trunk or Treat is what I call a front porch event. In our culture we don’t spend much time on the front porch any more. In fact, our porches have grown smaller and our decks bigger. We are spending less time on the front porch interacting with our neighbors and more time cloistered in our back yards on our big decks surrounded by our privacy fences. The church is no different. It is easy for us stay cloistered behind closed doors. Events like Trunk or Treat provide us a unique opportunity to interact with our neighbors and our community, inviting them into our home to experience the love we share in Christ.

So we’ve got the kids, cars, and candy ready to go—but how do we make sure this amounts to more than just a night of fun and nauseating amounts of sugar? That’s where we as the church body come in.

  1. Serve.  Very practically, to make this event happen we need your help. We need you to donate candy. It takes over 100,000 pieces of candy to make this event happen. To make this a fun, safe, and welcoming environment, we need help with greeting, parking, leading games, hosting trunks, and more. To serve, click here.
  2. Share.  Use social media to share the event. Take the time to personally invite friends and family to attend.
  3. Attend.  Bring your family out for this fun event. While you are here look for opportunities to connect with other families from our community. Welcome them and help them feel at home  at Grace Heartland Church.
  4. Pray.  The best thing you can do is to pray. In the days leading up to this event:  pray. Pray for people you are inviting to attend. Pray for the people from our community who don’t have a church home, who might not ever feel comfortable walking in to a church but will join us on this night. Pray that we will leverage this opportunity to share the love of Christ with literally thousands of people in our community. Pray that through this event God might be glorified in our community.

As you serve, share, attend, and pray here are some important details:

Trunk or Treat – Friday, October 23rd @ 6:30 p.m. Don’t miss our annual Trunk or Treat on Friday, October 23rd beginning at 6:30 p.m.  This year featuring D.J. James Hummel, illusionist Jeff Russ, the Nutty Scientists, Rachel’s Face Painting, 50 Trunks filled with thousands of pieces of candy, tasty treats, fireworks, and much more!

Please consider parking at First Presbyterian Church.  This year we are offering a hayride to shuttle people between First Presbyterian Church and Grace Heartland.

New This Year:  Play while you wait.  We know that you have to spend a lot of time waiting in line, but this year the wait just might be the best part.  Along the line you will find fun games to play, a chance to pet and dress up live ponies, up-close illusions with Jeff Russ, character meet and greets, and much more!  Don’t want to wait?  Skip the line and head straight to the field for games, the inflatable fun zone, and live entertainment with DJ James Hummel.

Give back:  This year we are collecting new toys that will be distributed to children at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville.

Adam Castenir, Children’s Minister

Grace Unleashed: the Love of Christ Compels Us

For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this:
that one has died for all, therefore all have died:
and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
1 Corinthians 5:14-15

“Why bother?” the cynic may ask.unleashed (2)

  • Why launch 100’s of people all over the local community to do good works?
  • Why have sign-ups for weeks on end?
  • Why print 100’s of lime green T-shirts to wear?

Simply put: the love of Christ compels us! To do what? To share the love of Christ in practical ways.

We share in action: all over our Heartland community we serve others—pressure-washing vinyl siding, planting shrubs, packing food, hammering nails, folding clothes, patching roofs, spreading mulch, serving meals, trimming trees . . . doing whatever it takes to get the job finished with excellence!

We share in word: before we serve, we gather to pray for the project, for those we are helping, for each other. We encourage each other through the day. And, we share with those we are serving—we make it clear that any good work we do is motivated out of a love for Christ. His love is reaching out through us.

We share in unity: because we are passionate about God, we enjoy each other. We are on mission together! This allows us to put aside petty differences of race, class, and status and frees us to love one-another unconditionally.

We share in sacrifice: like the Scripture says above—we no longer live for ourselves, but for Christ. Yes, we can confess together that selfishness can quickly sneak back into our day-to-day lives. But, let’s harness this day of serving to prompt us to make sacrificing for others a lifestyle.

Let’s confess that we’ve lived for ourselves far too long.

Let’s kindle a love for Christ that is so rich that we can sing together, For the love of Christ compels us!

Daryl Pepper, Associate Pastor, Grace Unleashed Director