Spiritual Eyes and Ears for Things Hidden

Have you ever looked at a Magic Eye™ picture? The page is covered with repeated designs that are very apparent to any viewer. But, for those who have eyes to see in a new way, you can also see a three-dimensional hidden picture. Many people never see the hidden picture. They only see the surface picture and never really understand that there is a more beautiful picture within the easily seen picture.

So it is with Jesus’ parables. Beyond the mere words of the parables are deep, hidden spiritual truths—truths like the Kingdom of God is a treasure worth more than all we have, God welcomes repentant sinners with great celebration, and God seeks the lost.

These truths are hidden truths unless one has been given the spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear them. Their beauty and worth are denied, misunderstood, or rejected by those whose eyes are blind and ears are deaf to spiritual truth. To see and hear the hidden things of God requires spiritual eyes and ears. Hunger for spiritual truth requires awakened senses, and to love the things of God requires a new heart. (See Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26.)

God alone is the source of spiritual eyes and undivided hearts. Only He can make blind eyes see, deaf ears hear, dead taste buds hunger, and hardened hearts soft.

It is my prayer and desire that through this brief study of some of the parables of Jesus—earthly stories with hidden meaning about the Kingdom of God— God may be pleased to open the eyes of the blind, heal the ears of the deaf, and soften the hearts of the hardened.

The thoughts above are expressed in the preface of the Backyard Bible Club/Vacation Bible School curriculum, Things Hidden. Perhaps you have taught the material and have seen the power of the Word of God to open a child’s eyes to spiritual truth. Perhaps you have had the privilege of seeing God at work through His Word to create spiritual hunger in a child… or the unparalleled joy of seeing a child’s heart respond in simple faith. If so, you know that the parables in the Bible are powerful. Might you want to be part of imparting these great spiritual truths to a group of children in your neighborhood or your church? If so, you may consider exploring the newly revised version of Things Hidden.


Discover the Revised Things Hidden Curriculum

What’s new about it?

Reformatted lessons

Lessons match our Sunday school curriculum format to make it easier to teach. Page flow has been improved with clearly indicated visuals and easy to follow teaching instructions and text. In addition, lesson concepts are more clearly explained and the application section has been expanded and improved.

All new visuals and additional resources


The visuals for Things Hidden are all new designs with original illustrations. Several additional resources are also included such as a puppet show script and promotional posters and postcards to invite people to your VBS or Backyard Bible Club.

New student project

The student project for the curriculum is now a treasure box with images of parables on the inside for children to color. Once it’s colored, students can fold it into a box. The box is full color (wood grain) on the outside and black and white on the inside for kids to color.

Each lesson has 4 Treasure cards children can fill out and add to their box:

  • Memory Verse Cards – children can decorate with stickers or draw pictures on to remind them of the lesson
  • Lesson-Specific Treasure Cards – children may attach a treasure to remind them of the parable in the lesson (a seed, a pearl, etc.)
  • Reflection Cards – children think about an application question and write a response.
  • Additional Treasure Cards – children can look around their everyday surroundings and collect things from nature, wisdom from parents, or Bible verses and share what they’ve found on the card.

To assist leaders in discussing the Gospel at a deeper level with the children they interact with, the booklet Helping Children to Understand the Gospel is included in the kit.

What hasn’t changed?

The rich five-lesson content remains the same as well as the intentional use of Bible verses and passages.

See sample lesson

12 Reasons to Choose Truth78 Curriculum

After an unusually long, cold winter, it’s finally summer! But churches are already thinking ahead to the fall. What will they teach the students next year; the current curriculum or something new? There are many varied reasons for choosing one curricula over another. Here are 12 reasons why you should consider teaching the Truth78 curricula:

  1. Vision-Oriented—our philosophy, methodology, scope and sequence, and lesson content all are aiming toward one main goal: That our students may know, honor, and treasure God, setting their hope in Christ alone, so that they will live as faithful disciples for the glory of God. (Download our Truth78 Viewbook for a more thorough introduction to our vision, mission, and curricula.)
  2. Whole Gospel-focused—Our hope and prayer is that every student will come to salvation in Christ and live as faithful disciples. Therefore, we believe that great care must be exercised in communicating the Gospel. Our students need the whole, rich foundation of the Gospel taught to them. A foundation which honors and exalts Christ by inspiring love, trust, obedience, and worship of Him as the essence, means, and goal of the Gospel is explained precept-by-percept. While each curriculum, as a whole, presents the Gospel message, not every lesson presents an “explicit” Gospel summary.
  3. Written by teachers, within the classroom setting—Sometimes a lesson looks great on paper but teaching it in a classroom with a live audience of students can be a very different experience. Our lessons have been developed and taught in the classroom and have been reviewed by other teachers and small group leaders before being published.
  4. Encourages both teacher and students to study the Bible—We place a very high premium on biblical literacy. Therefore, as soon as children are able to read, we believe they are ready to interact with the text of Scripture, using their own Bibles. Our curriculum helps teachers guide students in developing essential Bible study skills.
  5. Nourishes teachers—It’s hard to teach something that hasn’t enriched you first. Though our lessons are written for children and youth at age-appropriate levels, they are meaty with theological truths. This isn’t because we are especially clever, but because the lessons focus on revealing and explaining the Word of God. The Word provides teachers with spiritual food as they meditate on the lesson throughout the week while preparing to teach.
  6. Trains children and youth to thinkIt’s one thing to give children information to recall. It’s entirely different to engage their minds in critical thinking – the kind of thinking that prepares them to truly understand, embrace, live out, and defend the Christian faith for a life-time. Our interactive teaching style (asking questions, posing scenarios, etc.) helps train students to think critically and biblically.
  7. Aims for heart transformation—The mind is a conduit to the heart from which springs genuine faith and love for Christ. Too often children’s and youth curricula fail to engage the heart in any deep and meaningful way. Our curriculum has been designed to spend a significant time engaging students’ hearts in responding to God’s truth. While it is only by God’s sovereign grace that true heart transformation happens, we give teachers a variety of suggestions for leading discussions that prod students to sincerely and personally respond to God’s truth.
  8. Serious joy—We would never use the word “fun” as one of our curriculum distinctives. However, we offer something better than fun: Serious joy. We study the most important truths in the universe: The truth of God in the Word of God. God is holy and so is His Word. That’s why there is a certain demeanor and serious tone to our lesson content and format. But that doesn’t mean that the lessons are dry and boring. Our God is NOT boring. Therefore, when appropriate, there is plenty of room for creativity, laughter, excitement, colorful imagery, loudness, etc. But it’s all meant to point toward the majestic and awesome glory of God, where we find true, lasting, all-satisfying joy.
  9. Great customer service—Switching to a new curriculum can be a daunting task. There are a variety of issues to address and “one size fits all” in children’s and youth ministry. Truth78 is blessed to have an experienced team of people who have decades of experience in classroom ministry with our curriculum. They love serving people and finding answers to your questions and solutions to your concerns.
  10. Keeping the main thing the main thing—Unfortunately, for an increasing number of children, the Sunday school hour is one of the few times during their week that they receive formal Bible instruction. We want to use that limited time in order to focus on the main thing: Making them wise for salvation in Christ by acquainting them with the Scriptures. Therefore, our curriculum maximizes spiritual instruction and makes other activities secondary.
  11. Theological balance over the course of the entire scope and sequence—If our students are to be taught the whole counsel of God, they need to see and understand the Bible through a variety of disciplines: Bible survey, biblical theology, systematic theology, moral and ethical teaching, and an explicit Gospel presentation. Our scope and sequence has been carefully designed to introduce these disciplines in balance, not neglecting one for another. All serve in helping children and youth develop a robust faith.
  12. Gives parents “meat” to feed their children—Each lesson is accompanied by a GIFT (Growing In Faith Together) page. Not only do they give parents a summary of the lesson, they also give various ideas for follow-up discussion, helping parents discern their child’s spiritual condition and encourage faith in Christ and loving obedience to His Word.

 

Laying a Sure Foundation for Babies and Toddlers

How would you describe your church’s nursery environment? What are the expectations when parents hand over their child to the nursery workers? How do nursery staff perceive their role? How does your pastor and leadership view the nursery? These are all good questions to ponder.

For too long nurseries have been part of church life because somebody has to take care of the infants and toddlers while their parents participate in worship services and Sunday school classes. But we at Truth78 believe the church nursery can and should be an exciting and vital ministry in the church as it serves to nurture the faith of the next generation.  We believe that the nursery should be a place where babies and toddlers are:

  • welcomed and cared for with the love of Jesus
  • prayed for
  • taught about God through the repetition of simple truth statements
  • introduced to foundational Bible stories
  • encouraged with Scripture memory verses
  • surrounded by sights, sounds, and experiences that provide spiritual nourishment for young souls
  • tenderly acquainted with the Gospel

This puts nursery ministry in a whole new light. Nursery is not just a ministry to parents as we care for their children. It is more than changing diapers, feeding a baby his bottle, and calming a crying child. It is kingdom ministry to the “least of these.” Consider these words from John Piper,

Jesus took the child-belittling culture of his day which defined “greatness” to exclude “receiving children” and he turned it upside down. He said: “Receiving children in my name is the world’s least, and the world’s least is my great.” So wherever the Spirit of Christ pervades, the people who receive children will no longer be the “least.” They will be “great.”

Really? Why? Because to receive a child in Jesus’ name (i.e., out of love, in his strength, and for his glory) is to receive Jesus, and to receive Jesus is to receive God the Father. Which means that the nursery may be more full of God than any other room in the church.

At Truth78 we earnestly desire to highlight the significance of the church nursery by providing resources and training that aids churches–ministry leaders, volunteers, and parents–in creating a Gospel-loving, Bible-saturated, Spirit-dependent atmosphere for babies and toddlers. When this type of vision and philosophy is established and communicated, a nursery worker will no longer see his or her involvement merely as babysitting. Rather, participation in nursery ministry will be understood as laying the foundations for the faith of the next generation. An hour strategically used for kingdom purposes can, by God’s sovereign grace, reap a harvest of souls.

How to nourish the spiritual lives of babies and toddlers

We believe there are at least three important elements of the atmosphere of the nursery. Each is strategically incorporated and further explained in our nursery curriculum: A Sure Foundation: A Philosophy and Curriculum for Ministry to Infants and Toddlers.

1. Create an atmosphere that is God-oriented in its character. A nursery ministry focused on spiritual work will have an atmosphere permeated with the fragrance of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). It should be obvious to anyone entering the nursery that it is a place of loving kindness and soul nurturing. Here are several practical ways to implement this:

  • Strive for calmness and joy in the nursery. Be the “fragrance of Christ.” Encourage volunteers to exhibit this demeanor in their interactions with the children and each other. To facilitate this, consider playing hymns and worship music in the background. Join in the singing at times. These can be upbeat, happy songs or soothing, gentle music. Posters of worship songs and hymns can be posted on the nursery walls to facilitate singing.
  • Decorate the room with pictures or posters that reflect biblical truth. These can then be used to point children God-ward. For example, it is more strategic to have a picture of Jesus with the little children than a picture of a cartoon character. A volunteer can use the former to tell children, “Jesus loves the little children.” A poster of a kitten is cute, but a poster of a kitten with the saying, “God made kittens” is better.
  • Be intentional in using speech and singing as a means of conveying biblical truth. Although a baby may not understand the words “Jesus loves you” or “God made these little toes,” we should not underestimate what God might be pleased to do through the telling of these simple truths. Prayers and words of blessing can be spoken over a child as he is placed in a crib or as he leaves the nursery.

2. Create an atmosphere of humble dependence. Psalm 121:1 says that “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”  All our efforts will be fruitless unless the Lord is at work in the hearts of the little ones in the nursery. We are called to be faithful in imparting truth and sharing our faith, but God is the one who causes our efforts to bear fruit. It is good for nursery workers to remember that our attitude should be one of humble dependence on God. One way to exhibit this is to begin the nursery time in prayer and incorporate it throughout various times of the nursery session.

3. Create an atmosphere characterized by godly people. Although the words spoken may not be understood by a baby, the tone or the emotion of the adult caring for him can be sensed. In other words, the godly spirit of a nursery worker can minister to a baby in his care. Therefore it is strategic to nurture the souls of the nursery workers so they can nurture the souls of the babies in the nursery. This means that hiring unbelievers to work in the nursery will defeat your goal of having a spiritual atmosphere in the nursery. Carefully screen, train, equip, and encourage nursery volunteers.

Getting started

Truth78’s nursery and toddler curriculum, A Sure Foundation, provides a thorough explanation of our vision, philosophy, and methodology as well as numerous visuals, Bible stories, memory verses, and other helpful resources. We encourage you to carefully read all of the introductory material in order to understand how the curriculum is structured and how it can be used in your particular setting. We also highly recommend the following seminar and accompanying handout. They offer inspiration and practical tips for using the material:

Nursery and Toddler Ministry (audio) 

Nursery and Toddler Ministry (PDF) 

 

That They May Know, Honor, and Treasure God

Our new vision statement communicates our heartfelt desire for the next generations and begins with three distinct goals: that the next generations know, honor, and treasure God. Why these three? Because we believe each communicates essential, foundational realities necessary for the Christian life.

Know God  

In its totality, knowing God encompasses both an intellectual comprehension and a covenantal relationship. Both are crucial. Consider these words from John Piper in an Ask Pastor John segment, 

If you start at the beginning, the first and great commandment says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). So I would think, since that is the first commandment, that is the first challenge in every generation. Does the church and does the world love God with all their heart and all their soul and all their mind and all their strength? …if we don’t know God, we can’t love God.

Our worship to glorify God must be based on what we have seen of God, what we know of God, what he has revealed of Himself. If we are just worshiping a haze, God is not getting a lot of glory from the warm feelings that we are having in our hearts because of the ignorance of not being in our heads, because of the haze over our lives.

So today I think the biggest challenge is: Do people know God? Do people have a knowledge that is trustworthy? Therefore a huge issue is: What is the role of the Bible in the church today and is it trustworthy and are people basing their lives on it…? Are they getting the whole counsel of God so that they can love the whole God?

When we say our desire for the next generations is to know God, we want them to come to genuinely know the truth of the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—by becoming acquainted with His divine character, glorious deeds, redemptive work, and steadfast promises as revealed in His inerrant Word, the Bible. Our prayer is that, by God’s sovereign grace, this knowledge will bring them into a covenantal relationship with God.

Honor God

Honor is a word that has become almost obsolete in contemporary culture. So few things are honored and so few things are worthy of honor. Tragically the church has not been immune to this trend. The late Jerry Bridges gives us a wonderful reminder we need to heed,

It is impossible to be devoted to God if one’s heart is not filled with the fear of God. It is the profound sense of veneration and honor, reverence and awe that draws forth from our hearts the worship and adoration that characterizes true devotion to God.

In our day we must begin to recover a sense of awe and profound reverence for God. We must begin to view Him once again in the infinite majesty that alone belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Ruler of the entire universe (The Practice of Godliness—Godliness Has Value for All Things, 21).

When we state our desire for the next generations to honor God, we want them to honor and revere God in a way befitting His incomparable greatness and worth.

Treasure God

As the most important command of Scripture points out, love for God is to be ultimate, and it should involve every aspect of our being—every thought, emotion, attitude, word, and action. God is worthy of our greatest affections. One way in which to communicate this type of love, especially to children, is to speak in terms of treasuring God most. As Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Therefore, we could define loving God as knowing, feeling, and treating God as your greatest treasure. Treasuring God in this manner is the only thing that will ultimately satisfy the soul. It is within this context that we realize that the command to love God most is not only our greatest duty, but also our greatest delight.

So when we state our desire for the next generations to treasure God, we want them to treat God with undivided love and devotion, experiencing Him as their all-satisfying joy.

At Truth78, our hope and prayer is that the next generations know, honor, and treasure God. But this statement would not be realized if not for the very next words: setting their hope in Christ alone. Our children and students must set their full confidence and hope in Christ. It is only through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection that Jesus redeems sinners so that we might truly know, honor, and treasure God for all eternity.

 

Truth78 at TGC 2018 Women’s Conference

Truth78 will host a special late night event with John Piper at TGC’s 2018 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, IN, June 15.

Prior to his plenary message on Saturday morning, John Piper will join us for Late Night with Truth78 on Friday, June 15 at 9:15 pm, where he and David Michael will talk about the urgency and joy in proclaiming the whole counsel of God to the next generations.

Truth78 will also be exhibiting throughout the conference, June 14-16. Everyone who comes by our booth and signs up for the Truth78 e-newsletter will receive a free copy of our interactive family devotional Glorious God, Glorious Gospel. We’ll have new resources to view at booth 160, just before the bookstore area, and several products available for sale in the conference bookstore. We’ll also offer a special conference discount available on all online orders from June 14 through June 24.

If you’re planning to attend the conference, be sure to add our Late Night event to your schedule and find a time to come by the booth and say hello. We’d love to visit with you and encourage you in your ministry to the next generation.

Keep Your Children in Worship, for Worship

I remember asking my Dad if I needed to tithe on my small allowance when I was very young. How could a dime make a difference to the work of the church? I wondered. “I think I should wait to start tithing until I have more to give,” I said, as he handed me my dollar. “If I had a hundred dollars and could give ten, it would matter more,” I said. “And it would be a lot easier then, because I’d still have 90 left to spend,” I thought.

“If you don’t learn to do it with a small amount,” he said, “you’ll never do it when you have more. It gets harder, not easier.” I never forgot his wise counsel and have often thanked God for giving me my Dad who taught me the importance of gladly giving back to God. But it’s not just generosity God wants from his people, no matter how young.

He wants their attention. And ultimately, their worship.

It’s easy to look at your squirming, squawking, distracting toddlers and young children and think, surely it will be easier to train them to sit still and listen quietly to the sermon when they’re older. But as with early lessons in giving money back to God, so too, early lessons in giving attention to God have the potential to bear much fruit.

We didn’t start taking our little ones into the service with us until our third child was born. By then, we were attending a mega church where a handful of families who kept their children in the service all clustered together in one area of the auditorium. What started as a practical help to us getting to church on time—thereby avoiding the multi-room, even multi-building drop-off—soon became a matter of conviction. I didn’t realize how formative it could be for young ones to sing along with Mom and Dad, to color quietly while the pastor preached, to ask simple questions on the drive home about what they heard, in an effort to encourage their listening. But I was so glad God changed our minds about taking our kids with us into worship. Just a few other families, amidst hundreds, were enough to help us take courage and break out of the status quo of the “children’s church” model.

It may feel like an overwhelming idea: keeping your children of all ages with you in church. But it is not only possible, it is rich with promise; and likely not as hard a transition as you might fear.

Practice Active Listening

We tend to get good at what we practice. This works to our benefit with piano lessons, but also to our harm with vices. If you hand your child your smart phone or tablet for the short-term gains of keeping her quiet, you will set her on the dangerous path of getting very practiced at tuning out the preaching of God’s Word. You may assume she’ll naturally pay attention when she’s older, but paying attention is something we must work at, no matter our age. We all need help to extend our naturally short attention spans. One of the best ways you can do that is by minimizing, not increasing, distractions.

Sitting quietly and listening in church can be learned by even very young children and it is a worthy goal to level earn how; but not merely for the peace of the people around you in church.

Listen for Salvation

God designed us to believe in Christ by way of our ears. Paul says in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Hearing is essential to salvation. But merely being in the room where the salvation message is preached faithfully is not enough.

The high number of children raised in the church who leave when they become teenagers shows that it is not enough to get your children to church. According to R.C. Sproul, “A recent survey of people who used to be church members revealed that the main reason they stopped going to church is that they found it boring.” What children do while they are in church matters. How many countless people heard Paul preach but to no saving effect? “In one ear and out the other,” so the saying goes. What made the difference? Luke says in Acts 16:14, “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”

Two things stand out as necessary for saving faith: the work of the Lord to regenerate the sinner’s heart, and the active listening of paying attention. This is not a passive posture, but one that anticipates receiving something from the speaker. Pray for your children and with your children that God will give them the ability to pay attention. We have made it our habit to pray as a family in the car on the way to church. My husband asks the Lord to bless the preaching of God’s Word, and to give us ears to hear it. It is so important your children know that you need help to pay attention, too!

Model Joyful Listening

Once there, model paying attention for joy, for love to God, and for being built up by the Word preached. Listening to the active, living Word that is sharper than any two-edged sword, with the power to raise the dead to life and transform them into the image of Christ should not be drudgery. Do your children know you love God’s Word? That you look forward to hearing it preached? Do they see you listening to it and loving it, being challenged and convicted by it, and ultimately, being changed by it?

No matter what you say about the centrality of the Word preached, it is how you behave in relation to it that will have the greatest impact on your children. Your kids need to see you being joyful, expectant, convicted, engaged, transformed—everything but bored. At its heart, the reason quiet listening matters is not primarily so you won’t disturb the people around you—the quiet part—but so that you will hear words of life—the listening part—and be transformed by the Word of Life.

Plan Ahead

A little planning ahead of time can help orient your children to the service and know what to expect.

Set Expectations. Tell your children that the worship service isn’t a time to eat, or talk, or play, but to listen, learn, and believe. Help your children by providing quiet activities that help them listen and serve those in the pews or chairs around them. Consider getting them a church notebook and pen or pencil for drawing pictures of what they’re hearing, and when they’re able to write, to take notes.

Practice. Take an order of service, program, or liturgy—whatever your church provides for following along—and go through it at home, explaining when to speak, when to sing, when to sit, when to stand, etc. Let them know that you want them to join in the activities. Consider listening to the songs that will be sung and sing them together.

Prepare. Feed your children a hearty breakfast so they won’t be distracted by a growling stomach. Take them to the bathroom before the service starts with the goal of remaining in the service without interruption.

It is worth every effort you make to train your children to join in the singing, listen to the preaching, and participate in the praying of God’s Word. This is the path to everlasting life.

*For further encouragement and practical help, Truth78 has created a reproducible PDF for parents and churches, “8 Tips for Helping Your Child Worship.”

 

When I am Afraid—Fighting Worries with the Word

I remember when every night was a struggle to get our daughter to bed. It was as if nighttime brought to her mind every possible catastrophic scenario. She was terrified! As parents, we were tempted to simply address her fears with simple, rational explanations: “See, there are no monsters under your bed.” “The dark can’t hurt you.” Etc.

Sometimes these explanations can be helpful, but they can never give our children unshakeable peace and assurance in the myriad of fearful situations they will experience both now and in the future. That’s why I am so excited about When I am Afraid, a new children’s resource from Truth78. A full-color picture book, When I am Afraid addresses one of the most common experiences of children: FEAR. It provides parents with a tool for helping their children look to God’s all-powerful Word to conquer fear and worry.

Through carefully selected verses, children are reminded of the character of God and His wonderful provision and protection of His people.

The book’s “Word to Parents” and “How to Use this Book” sections provide a strong foundation and context for going beyond simply reading the book to their child(ren). It encourages parents to use the illustrations and verses to engage their child’s heart in further spiritual discussion, points them to the Gospel, and shows them their need for responding in faith.

A mother wrote to share this story of how the message helped her guide her son:

My three children take turns sleeping with our toddler, so every third night our middle son must sleep alone, which creates overwhelming fear and sadness for him.

Last night was a night that son was asked to sleep alone. He broke down again. This time, we all read your book on fear. I think we could all feel our confidence in God build as we read through it together. His Word is so powerful. We all laid hands on my son who had been so frightened and each of us prayed for him and he went to bed – without tears!  It was a real victory!

This book is fantastic and not too young for anyone. I think I’ll try and use it when we teach the lesson on “Jesus Calms Fearful Sinners” in the kindergarten class…just perfect!

You can read more about the book, including sample pages, here.

You can also download here a PDF of the lesson “Jesus Calms Fearful Sinners” that is in the “Jesus, What a Savior” curriculum.

 

Showing Honor to Those Who Minister to Your Children

Have you ever been struck by the number of people the apostle Paul mentions at the end of many of his letters? For the most part, we know very little about these men and women. Yet to Paul, they were beloved ministry partners who assisted him in a variety of ways in spreading the gospel and establishing churches. His acknowledgement must have been a great encouragement to each of them; a type of “thank you” to them for their faithful service. But then we shouldn’t be surprised by this since Paul also wrote,

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, (Ephesians 1:16).

Church leaders and parents, have you considered how you might acknowledge, thank, and honor the people who have faithfully, week after week, ministered to the children of your church, as well as your own children, this past year? Let me share two brief experiences of being on the receiving end of such gratitude as a long-time Sunday school teacher. One demonstrates what parents can do and the other what church leadership can do.

What parents can do—In my home office, I have a file folder titled, “Encouragement.” In it are notes—simple, handwritten notes from children I have taught throughout the years. Typically, I received these notes during the last weeks of the class year. Some notes made me laugh. Some made me cry happy tears. Each note is precious. Each brings to mind a memory of a specific child. Each is a source of lasting encouragement.

Parents, please don’t underestimate the power of your six-year-old’s barely legible “thank you” on a note card to a Sunday school teacher. Consider how you might use the next few weeks as an opportunity to teach your children about showing thankfulness for those who have served them. You might use the above verses as discussion starters and then think of a practical way to apply these verses.

What church leadership can do—For years our church hosted the annual Appreciation Banquet for all children’s and youth ministry volunteers. We were treated to a wonderful meal and/or dessert, a small gift, and most importantly, testimonies from parents and students and message from Pastor David Michael. We went away feeling honored and encouraged (and for many of us, we wanted to “sign-up” to teach again next year!).

Whether you help your children write a simple note, give a verbal—“Thank you so much for teaching!” —or participate in a banquet or giving a small gift, these are just a few examples of encouraging teachers. A little can go a long way toward providing biblical encouragement which builds up the body of Christ and is pleasing in God’s sight.

Harmony between the pulpit and children’s ministry


Thirty-some years ago I was a frustrated Sunday school teacher. Why? Because the majestic scope and depth of the glories of God that was preached so faithfully from the pulpit week after week was being dangerously minimized and skewed in the Sunday school classroom. From the pulpit we heard great truths proclaimed such as,

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25)

Yet the main point of a lesson on the Exodus I was to teach the children was, “God needed Moses to help Him deliver the Israelites from Egypt.” The pulpit and the classroom were on two different trajectories. One proclaimed a biblical vision of an almighty, self-sufficient God; and the other, a man-construed weak and needy “God.” I longed to teach the children about the all-satisfying delight of knowing, trusting, and treasuring an  almighty, self-sufficient God!

Watch as John Piper explains the importance of the pulpit and children’s and youth ministry being in harmony with one another and how Truth78 materials served to bridge the gap.

Church and Home: Better Together

My birding binoculars recently went haywire. When you look through both eyepieces you get a distorted double image. Yet if you look through each individual eyepiece using one eye at a time, you get a clear image. The problem is that this image is very limited in its scope. Somehow the two eyepieces are out of sync with one another, greatly reducing the usefulness of the binoculars.

This illustration can help in describing the importance of the church and home working “in sync”—in  partnership—with one another in nurturing the faith of the next generations. Though parents are given the primary responsibility to raise children in the faith, by design and opportunity (Deuteronomy 6:4-7), God has also designed that this nurturing take place in partnership with the church (Matthew 28:18-20 and Ephesians 4:11-13).  This partnership affirms the role and responsibility of church leadership to provide encouragement and training for parents as well as provide formal instruction for children and youth.  Individually, both church and home, have an important role to play in our children’s discipleship. But the scope and impact will be far greater when church and home are intentionally working together to nurture the faith of our children.

The first step in fostering this biblical parent-church partnership is to explore, clarify, and communicate what this partnership consists of and how it will be fleshed out, addressing questions like:

  • What is the church’s vision for children’s and youth ministry?
  • What will be the church’s responsibility in pursuing this vision?
  • What specific biblical instruction will be offered to children and youth?
  • How will the church equip parents?
  • What is expected of parents?

Getting started

Here are two printable documents that outline some first steps and practical suggestions for fostering a healthy partnership between church and home.

Parents: Partnering with Your Church

Church: Partnering with Parents

 

 

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