Jared Kennedy, MDiv, ThM, is the cofounder and managing editor of Gospel-Centered Family, a ministry that helps churches and families share Jesus with the next generation. He also serves as the Children’s and Family Ministry Strategist for the Sojourn Network and is an adjunct professor at Boyce College.
He is the author of The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible, Are You Close to God?, Jesus Rose for Me, Jesus Came for Me, and God Made Me for Worship, and has developed two VBS programs, Proof Pirates and Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet. He blogs regularly at Gospel-Centered Family and contributes to @TGC, @ERLC, and @HeReadsTruth.
Jared and his wife, Megan, have three girls, Rachael, Lucy and Elisabeth.
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The Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
Ten years ago, our middle daughter, Lucy, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD. Lucy is profoundly affected by Autism. Her sensory processing and cognitive function are severely delayed. She is thirteen years old now, but it wasn’t until she was ten that we finished toilet training, and we still help her with most of her daily care tasks—the sort of care tasks that are normal for a toddler but not for a teen.
I’ve never been able to have a sit-down conversation with my daughter about her emotions—even though she often lets us know how she feels. Lucy’s brain just doesn’t work that way. When we received the news of her diagnosis, Megan and I were preparing for the mission field. Our life and dreams immediately changed. We’ve discovered the best way to care for our daughter was to stay in the States and to live a life that’s slower. I now work from home and we travel less than we imagined.
We’ll also likely be caretakers for the rest of our lives. Honestly, when you’re caring for someone with a severe disability the blessings can be difficult to see. But I think one of the biggest is that it has shown me my limits. It’s easy for me to let my ambition get ahead of my family and—honestly—ahead of God’s will. Our family’s limits reign me in, and I’m now able to see the invitation that God has given me in our story to trust His Providential hand and experience his love and “God with us” presence even in times when I have to just be still and accomplish less.
What started you on your writing journey?
I was serving as children’s minister at our local church, and two fellow church members — my friends Bobby Gilles and Lindsay Blair — wanted to write a children’s book. I walked with them through that process and eventually we were connected to a publisher (who our pastor happened to meet at a church member’s wedding!).
Later, Lindsay and I and some other friends worked together to write a Vacation Bible School for our church. A mentor in ministry, Marty Machowski (who I met in an elevator at a conference!), liked what we’d done and introduced us to New Growth Press. How’s that for Providence!? That’s how my writing journey began!
Let’s talk about your new book, Jesus Came for Me: The True Story of Christmas (New Growth Press, October 19, 2020. Illustrated by Trish Mahoney). Please tell us about it.
Jesus Came for Me is part of The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible series. For children ages three to seven, this illustrated book begins with the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth to Zechariah and ends with the visit of the wise men.
Aren’t board books great?! Not only does this book communicate biblical truth to your child in a simple and colorful way, but your toddler can put the book in their mouth without totally destroying it!
What led you to write this particular book?
Advent season is the time of year when we’re reminded of our deepest longing and the truth that we can’t fulfill them ourselves. We need a Savior! Then, Christmas comes, and we’re reminded that Jesus, our great God, was born as a little baby. His birth is good news and great joy for all people including kids!
Even when He feels far away, Jesus — God with us — is always present, and the good news is that He came for us! I want to introduce kids to that truth from a very young age. I want to help them live in the joy of the great truth that Jesus is with us! My prayer is that this book will help them to believe and wait for Him — even as they are learning to wait for Christmas!
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Reason #1: Milk chocolate and peanut butter! This alone is enough of a reason.
Reason #2: My grandma (we called her “Memaw”) always had these, so I became an addict from an early age.
Reason #3: Hoarding left-over Halloween candy where kids can’t find it is America’s favorite parental pastime!
What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?
I turned to Christ for the first time when I was in preschool. My mom led our family devotions from Matthew 19, and she told us that even kids can come to Jesus. Then, she led me in a prayer to trust Him.
In my faith journey, I’ve often let the attitude of “too busy” (the attitude of the disciples who kept the kids from Christ in that passage) get in the way of simply being with Jesus. But that doesn’t keep Jesus from saying, “Let them come.” Throughout my walk, I’ve found that I need to hear that call to come to Him again and again.
In the story that is your life, are you the tall, dark stranger; the romantic lead; the mythical warrior; the mad scientist; or the child in an adult’s body?
Definitely the mad scientist! For good or ill, I’m always cooking up some new idea.
Thank you, Jared! It’s great to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.
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