The Need for Illustrations in Teaching


As a curriculum writer, one of the most difficult aspects of developing a lesson is coming up with appropriate, concrete illustrations. Why bother with these illustrations? Why not just stick to the Bible text?

Ligonier Ministries recently posted an article by R. C Sproul on this very subject, “The Need for Illustrations in Preaching.” Notice how much of what he points out also applies to teaching children, as they are especially in need of bridging the gap between concrete and abstract thinking:

[Martin Luther]…said that the makeup of the human person is an important clue to preaching. God has made us in His image and has given us minds. Therefore, a sermon is addressed to the mind, but it’s not just a communication of information—there is also admonition and exhortation…There is a sense in which we are addressing people’s wills and are calling them to change. We call them to act according to their understanding. In other words, we want to get to the heart, but we know that the way to the heart is through the mind. So first of all, the people must be able to understand what we’re talking about…

That which makes the deepest and most lasting impression on people is the concrete illustration. For Luther, the three most important principles of public communication were illustrate, illustrate, and illustrate. He encouraged preachers to use concrete images and narratives. He advised that, when preaching on abstract doctrine, the pastor find a narrative in Scripture that communicates that truth so as to communicate the abstract through the concrete.

In fact, that was how Jesus preached. Somebody came to Him and wanted to debate what it meant to love one’s neighbor as much as oneself. “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves…’” (Luke 10:29–30). He didn’t just give an abstract, theoretical answer to the question; he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. He answered the question in concrete form by giving a real-life situation that was sure to get the point across.

What might this look like when teaching children? Imagine teaching a group of children what it means that God is a jealous God: He will not share His glory, or the honor and praise He deserves (Isaiah 42:8, Exodus 34:14).

What?…God doesn’t share?

Daddy and Mommy tell me I must share.

Sharing is good.

Why doesn’t God share?

Enter an Illustration: Have a contest between the teacher and a child to see who can do the most jumping-jacks in 1 minute. The winner will receive a beautiful first place ribbon and cheers from the rest of the class. But when the child wins the contest, the teacher steals the first place ribbon, places it on himself, and tells the class to cheer for him instead of for the child.

What happens? Without fail, the children in the class get very vocal…“That’s not right! You (the teacher) didn’t win!” And no, they won’t cheer for the one who stole 1st place from the real winner. You have now grabbed their minds and hearts, as it were, to understand “not sharing” in a whole new way.

Explain the Illustration:

  • The true winner is the one who deserves to receive the ribbon and be applauded.
  • It would be wrong for someone else to steal the winner’s award and the applause he deserves.
  • It would also be wrong for you to applaud and praise someone who is trying to steal first place from the true winner.

Connect the Illustration to Biblical Truth:

Isaiah 42:8—I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

  • Usually, we think of sharing as a good thing, and many times it is a good thing.
  • But there are some things that it would not be right to share.
  • God would not be right to share first place, His glory, with anything or anyone else. He alone is God. He is the best!
  • There is a special word in the Bible that means that God will not share His glory or the honor and praise He deserves.

Exodus 34:14—for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God,

Apply the Truth:

  • Because God is jealous, He will protect and guard His glory so that no one can take first place from Him.
  • We must love God most of all and give to Him the worship and praise that He deserves.
  • Because God is jealous, it will never be okay for us to treat other things or people as if they are better or greater than God.
  • Because God is jealous, He will also protect and guard all who worship and praise Him–His people.

(Image courtesy of bplanet at

Thanksgiving Giveaway!!

The Fighter Verses Study Giveaway

As we enter the Thanksgiving weekend and take a moment to think about our blessings, our team here at Children Desiring God is so thankful for the blessing of you…our partners in ministry.

We are honored you support us and are thankful for the opportunities you are given to teach the next generation about our great God. Every time we meet you or get a note from you, our hearts our filled with joy as we hear about your passion for training children and the testimonies that come from your homes and classrooms.

We would love to celebrate Thanksgiving with you by giving you the opportunity to win some new resources that have already blessed our team over and over again. We are giving away a copy of The Fighter Verses Discussion Guide and The Fighter Verses Journal!

These resources are a part of The Fighter Verses Study, a devotional for families, small groups and individuals based on Set One of the Fighter Verses Bible memory program. These verses have been specifically chosen to equip you to fight the fight of faith. Our prayer is that as you study and memorize the verses, they will inform, instruct, guide, strengthen and comfort the soul through the daily struggles and joys of life.

How to Enter the Giveaway

  • The Fighter Verses Study GiveawayChoose your favorite verse from the Fighter Verses Set One.
  • Write out the verse on a piece of paper (you can make it beautiful or scrawl it on the back of a napkin) and have a friend take a photo of you holding the verse.
  • Share your photo with us on Twitter or Instagram along with a short reason why this verse is precious to you. If it’s not obvious in your profile, be sure to include your first name and the state you live in.
    • On Instagram: tag @childrendesiringGod and include the hashtag #myfighterverses to enter
    • On Twitter: tag @childrenDG and include the hashtag #myfighterverses to enter
    • #myfighterversesSample Post: @suzy Psalm 121:1-2 is a helpful daily reminder to me that God is always ready to help me and I am always in need of His help, from creation to salvation to eternity! -Suzy, MN #myfighterverses @childrendesiringgod
  • Be sure to submit your photo by December 9 to enter. Winners will be announced here on the blog by December 14.

Search #myfighterverses on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see the favorite Fighter Verses of the Children Desiring God staff. We can’t wait for you to join us in sharing your #myfighterverses


Don’t forget to enter The Fighter Verses Study Coloring Contest too!

Fighter Verses Coloring Contest


The Giveaway Fine Print
  • The contest is open to anyone, except where prohibited by law. One entry allowed per person. If the winner is from the continental United States, he or she will receive one printed copy of The Fighter Verses Discussion Guide and one printed copy of The Fighter Verses Journal. If the winner is outside of that area, they will receive an electronic copy of the prize. Winners will be chosen by the Children Desiring God staff.
  • If you do not have access to Instagram or Twitter to submit you photo, you send it by email. This contest is not sponsored by Instagram or Twitter. Make sure your account is set to public so we can see your entry. Because of their policies, we are unable to accept entries through Facebook, but feel free to share your photo there as well.
  • We would like to share your photos and stories. By entering this giveaway, you give Children Desiring God and Fighter Verses the right to share your entry photo and any information submitted with it (name, state, social media handle, comments) on our social media accounts,, or in any other format we deem appropriate.



Meditating on the Word in a Sound-bite World

ID-100289338As someone who is passionately committed to teaching children the Word of God, I have grown more and more concerned with the effects that the frequent use of digital media may have on our desire and/or ability for sustained concentration and deep, analytical thought—the type of concentration and thought needed to rightly study, discern, and apply the Word of God. As tempting as it is to use a growing number of videos, apps, and other digital tools in our teaching, I would caution us to pause and seriously consider the long-term effects. Please understand: I am not advocating that digital media never be used. Rather, I am saying that we should be careful in choosing and using these so that we do not inadvertently undermine our students’ growth in sustained, critical thinking.

Reformation 21 has an important and thought-provoking article by Garry Williams, “The World in the Church: A Distracted World, a Distracted Church?” In the first part of the article, he argues for how the internet and other digital media have actually changed the way our brains think and process information. In the second half of the article, he challenges the church to carefully about the manner in which it communicates biblical truth. I would encourage all teachers and parents to read the entire article. Here are a few of his thoughts:

Meditation is a divinely commanded duty and delight. We are commanded not to flit around. But, we may wonder, if people’s brains are trained out of sustained attention, won’t doing it put them off? I think we have no choice. We have to be teachers not only of the content of revelation, but also of its prescribed form. Being faithful pastors will involve challenging the way people think as well as what they think. We are not doing our job if we only communicate the content and not the form. Reducing preaching to fragmentary form is like serving freeze dried astronaut ice cream and claiming it is Ben and Jerry’s. We are told to preach the word, which means communicating it by sustained speech, living man to living man. Preaching is a particular form of communication. It is not a string of videos punctuated by commentary.

If not by mimicking the world, how can we rightly resist the danger of distraction? First, we need deliberately to teach about it when we gather together, to forewarn and thereby forearm people against it. We can articulate for them what many probably already feel. This is a particular responsibility of parents whose children are growing up surrounded and potentially saturated by the new media. Of course we need to teach them about and protect them from the dangers of internet content, but we also need to take steps to educate them about the form of electronic media and its dangers. 

2016 National ConferenceWould you like to explore this topic further? Consider attending one of the following seminars at our 2016 National Conference in Indianapolis:

Picking Up the Digital Blitz: Recognizing and Countering the Technology Rush in Our Homes (Tim Keeter)

Many may be surprised to learn that God’s Word has plenty to say about how Christians should handle digital technology—and it’s clear and grace- filled! Our goal in this seminar is to come alongside parents and students (and those who minister to parents and students) in their effort to interact with technology in their homes and personal lives. Practical instruction will address strategies for introducing technologies into the home, training children in the wise and faithful use of technology, and how to identify, correct, and prevent idolatries surrounding digital technologies.

Encouraging Active Minds in the Learning Process  (Jill Nelson)

If our children are to grow and mature in the Christian faith and stand firm against the spirit of this age, they must be taught to think deeply and biblically. This involves an intentional, age-appropriate, step-by-step approach aimed at encouraging the mind to be active in the learning process. For this to happen, a teacher must go beyond simply engaging students in activities or presenting information. This seminar will give teachers practical tools and training for activating the minds of their students.

(Image courtesy of tuelekza at

Growing Up in a World of Terrorism


As parents, we long to protect our children from a myriad of dangers. And, in increasing measure, western affluent cultures have minimized these dangers through the development of safety innovations: car seats, cordless blinds, baby monitors, etc. All are good and helpful for keeping our kids safe. But as recent world events attest, the world is still a very dangerous place. What’s a parent to do? Erik Raymond, a pastor and father of six, has a helpful article titled, “What Do You Tell Your Kids About ISIS?” Although not comprehensive in scope or depth, the article provides parents with 10 very helpful basic discussion points. Here is his introduction:

Christian parents are called to help their children to think about, interact with, and evaluate current issues from a biblical perspective. Cultivating a Christian worldview is one of the main components of child training.

Over the last couple of years, as ISIS has been increasingly in the news, we have had a number of discussions as a family about what has been happening. Our 6 children range from 4 to 20, so there needs to be thoughtful care given to the details of our discussion. However, it is quite near impossible to tame down the atrocities of ISIS to a general audience.

Our children became quite concerned—and with good reason. The barbaric beheadings speak of ancient tribal savagery rather than modern military battles. Most of the conflicts they have heard of have involved airplanes, ships, and soldiers. Now these guys come along with a fearlessness that is only matched by their thirst for blood. Of course our kids are concerned—we are concerned.

You can read his 10 discussion points here.

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

The Fighter Verses Coloring Contest!

Fighter Verses Coloring Contest

Here at Children Desiring God, we are so excited about the release of The Fighter Verses Study, and especially The Fighter Verses Coloring Book!

The Fighter Verses Coloring Book features 52 original illustrations, each based on a verse from Set One of the Fighter Verses Bible memory program. The verses, along with key truth statements with each one, will help equip you and your children to fight the fight of faith. The coloring book can be used alongside The Fighter Verses Study, by children memorizing Fighter Verses, or by itself as an encouraging, Bible-based coloring book for kids at church or in the home.

To celebrate release, we are hosting our first ever coloring contest and giving away four of the new coloring books! So pull out your crayons, colored pencils and markers and join us.

How to Enter the Coloring Contest

  • The Fighter Verses Coloring BookDownload and print the coloring page for your age group
  • Start coloring and try to memorize the verse while you’re at it.
  • Have a friend take a photo of you holding your Fighter Verses coloring page.
  • Share your photo with us on Twitter or Instagram. Be sure to include your first name, state and age (you can leave that off if you’re over 18) in your post.
    • Nicole's VerseOn Instagram: tag @childrendesiringGod and include the hashtag #myfighterverses to enter
    • On Twitter: tag @childrenDG and include the hashtag #myfighterverses to enter
    • Sample Post: @momsinstagram  “When I’m scared, now I can remember to pray Psalm 56″ -Katie, 7, Minnesota #myfighterverses @childrendesiringgod
  • Be sure to submit your photo by December 5 to enter. Winners will be announce here on the blog by December 9.

Search #myfighterverses on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see the favorite Fighter Verses of the Children Desiring God staff. We can’t wait for you to join us in sharing your #myfighterverses


The Coloring Contest Fine Print
  • Entries from children under 18 years old must be submitted by a parent or guardian.
  • The contest is open to anyone, except where prohibited by law. One entry allowed per person. Winners from the continental United States will receive one printed copy of The Fighter Verses Coloring Book ($7.50 value). If the winner is outside of that area, they will receive one electronic copy of The Fighter Verses Coloring Book ($4.00 value). Winners will be chosen by the Children Desiring God staff.
  • If you do not have access to Instagram or Twitter to submit you photo, you send it by email. This contest is not sponsored by Instagram or Twitter. Make sure your account is set to public so we can see your entry. Because on their policies, we are unable to accept entries through Facebook but feel free to share your photo there as well.
  • By entering The Fighter Verses Coloring contest, you give Children Desiring God and Fighter Verses the right to share your entry photo and any information submitted with it (name, age, state, social media handle, comments) on our social media accounts,, or in any other format we deem appropriate.


Why I Bought The Fighter Verses Coloring Book

Fighter Verses

The Fighter Verses Coloring Book Set OneThis fall was a big transition for our 4-year-old grandson. Because our church strongly encourages families to be together in corporate worship, childcare during the worship service ends at age 4. My husband and I, and David’s parents gladly affirm and embrace this policy established by our pastor and elders! So now David is with Daddy and Mommy during the entire service. However, getting used to sitting quietly is not the easiest discipline to master for an active little boy. Help!

Help is on the way…That is why I have already put in my order for The Fighter Verses Coloring Book, a brand new resource offered by Children Desiring God. Although David isn’t a reader yet, he can still benefit from this resource. It will be his “special sermon time book.” For example, before the worship service, Daddy and Mommy can read the memory verse on the page, talk about it, explain the picture, and then allow David to quietly color the picture during the sermon.

Do you know of a young child who is learning to sit still during the sermon? Consider giving him or her The Fighter Verses Coloring Book.


About The Fighter Verses Coloring Book

The Fighter Verses Coloring BookThe Coloring Book is part of Set One of The Fighter Verses Study, a year-long devotional for families, small groups and individuals. It features illustrations of 52 verses as well as a key truth statement will each verse that will equip your children to fight the fight of faith.

These original illustrations include a blend of powerful Bible stories brought to life; children in real-life, modern-day moments; and beautiful nature scenes. If you are using The Fighter Verses Study, the Coloring Book is a great resource to help younger children engage during a family or group discussion of the study.

The coloring book can be used alongside The Fighter Verses Study, by children memorizing Fighter Verses, or by itself as an encouraging, Bible-based coloring resource for children. It is available in print and electronic formats.

Learn more about The Fighter Verses Study and view the Study Sample.

A Child, Catechism, and Cancer


In his article, “In Peace or Crisis, Instruct Your Children in the Lord,” William Ross makes a heart-felt and biblical plea to parents to take seriously the catechizing of their children:

Most days my wife would review a chosen verse, helping our son, Amos, remember and recite it, and each night we worked on one of “his questions” before bed. Nothing complicated, just a simple “repeat after me” approach in small chunks at a time, reviewing the ones we’d done already. He absorbed them much faster than we expected. By June Amos could zip through a handful of Bible verses, and no fewer than 30 catechism questions and answers. What a joy it is to watch your child grow in the knowledge of the Lord!

And what a firm foundation it builds for times of trouble!

Everything changed abruptly, almost without warning. Several weeks ago, I was hiking in Kentucky with friends when I got a phone call from my wife, who was at the emergency room with our three-year-old son. Shortly after that, we wept together in utter shock as I listened on speakerphone to a doctor telling us that Amos had a tumor in his head. By the time I made it back to California, where we had gone to visit family from Cambridge where we live, he was 40 minutes from his first of two brain surgeries.

It’s cancer…

Let me make my point very clear: Parents, I exhort you to teach your children about our God, both from Scripture and with the organized instruction of a children’s catechism. If you haven’t started, now is unquestionably the right time. Laying the rock-solid truth of Scripture in the foundation of your child’s soul can never begin too early. Although there aren’t any shortcuts, it isn’t as hard as you might think. And regardless of how daunting it may seem, Scripture commands us to teach our children about our wonderful God. Speaking from experience, no task proves more rewarding.

(found at

2016 National ConferenceAre you looking for more help in implementing Bible memory and catechism in your home in order to prepare your children to stand firm in the Lord through life’s joys and sorrows? Consider attending the following seminars at our 2016 National Conference, April 14-16, 2016:

The Power of the Memorized Word in the Fight of Faith

Presented by Brian Eaton

Believers have access to the most powerful weapon to fight the fight of faith—the Word of God. Learn how you can wield the sword of the Spirit through the discipline of Bible memorization. You will hear testimony of God’s goodness through His Word, and leave with practical tools to help you, your family, and your church begin and sustain a Bible memory program.

Catechism: Out of Date, or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths? 

Presented by Sally Michael

For centuries, the church has educated the next generation through the use of catechisms. Why have we departed from this mode of instruction? Was it a good departure? What is the benefit of catechisms? What is the content of the catechism? Should we restore the use of catechisms, and if so, how do we do it? These questions and more will be answered in this seminar.

Learn more about the 2016 National Conference and   Register Now

(Image courtesy of Stoonn at

Helping Us to be On Guard Against Sexual Abuse in the Church

51jxZCUkl9L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Sexual offenders are not dumb. They are deliberate and calculating. The very things Christians see as strengths—love for others, a trusting disposition—perpetrators see as weaknesses on which they can prey…Many perpetrators know that churches are struggling to find volunteers to help in children’s ministry, and they want to exploit that fact fully.

This statement from Deepak Reju’s book, On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church, is only one of many troubling statements of fact that this eye-opening book records. In his book, Deepak not only heightens the reader’s awareness of the problem of sexual predators, but also identifies false assumptions we make, and deals with types, techniques, and targets of sexual predators. Though we would like to think that this problem does not affect the church, Deepak uncovers reasons why sexual predators find the church to be an especially good target for their predatory behavior.

Yet this is not a book intended merely to sober us or leave us fearful in the face of evil. Rather, it is proactive in arming church leaders with eight strategies for protecting the “least of these” against abuse. The advice given is practical, reasonable, and effective—a wealth of implementable strategies for those responsible for children’s programming.  Practical issues such as writing a child protection policy, talking with children about sexual abuse, screening applications, training of volunteers, and identifying sexual abuse are all clearly outlined in the appendices, making this book a very helpful handbook for children’s ministry leaders.

Written by a pastor with an obvious heart for the church, Deepak ends his book with strategies for responding in cases where abuse has taken place—both in dealing with the victims and the abuser. Yet perhaps where we see his pastoral heart most clearly expressed is in Deepak’s encouragement to parents to be “an ever-present reality” in their children’s lives.  His last sentences sum up his heart‘s desire for protecting and nurturing children: “Parents, build a strong relationship with your kids. Get to know them. Be a part of their world. Love them such that they will trust you more than anyone else.”


2016 National ConferenceDeepak Rejur will be presenting two seminars during our 2016 National Conference, April 14-16 in Indianapolis: “Preventing Child Abuse in Your Church,” and “Why Discipling Matters for Children’s Ministry.” Learn more about the National Conference and Register Now!



Responding to Discouragement

John Angell James

John Angell James

Every cause which is worth supporting, will have to encounter difficulties—and these are generally proportionate to the value of the object to be accomplished.— John Angell James

This is especially true when the value of the object to be accomplished is something of immeasurable greatness and worth, namely, proclaiming the glorious deeds of the Lord to the next generation so that they might set their hope in Him!

If we are faithful to do this in our Sunday school classrooms, we should not be surprised when we encounter difficulties. Although written almost 200 years ago, John Angell James’ insights are as true and helpful today as they were in his day. Here are some discouragements he notes that are commonly encountered when teaching children, and how to respond to each discouragement:

—From their DULLNESS. Instead of finding them quick in their conceptions, and steady in their application—you will often find them volatile in their habits, and slow of apprehension…

Never yield to such feelings…Plants of great excellence are often of slow growth, and pay with ample interests the gardener’s heavy toil, and delayed expectations.

—Their INGRATITUDE is oftentimes exceedingly discouraging…Perceiving that your kindness is wasted upon objects which it fails to impress—you feel sometimes disposed to withdraw your exertions, which are so little valued and improved.

But consider that this very state of the children’s minds, instead of inducing you to relax your exertions, should stimulate you to greater activity, since it is a part of that depravity of heart and that deformity of character, for the removal of which they are entrusted to your care. To abandon them on this account, would be like the physician’s giving up his patient because he is diseased. The more insensible and ungrateful you find them, the more should you labor for their improvement…

—Their MISIMPROVEMENT operates very unfavorably upon the mind of their instructors. Who has not sometimes experienced a chilling depression, when he has looked round upon the school at large, and compared the actual state of the children…How many appear just as depraved—as when they entered the school, and are leaving it without a single proof on which a teacher can rest his hope that they are really the better for his instructions.

…Children, in whose hearts devout impression may have been produced, are often removed from beneath your care—before you have an opportunity to witness the fruit of your toil! But the eye of God is upon his own work, and he will in eternity, make known to you all that he does by you.

(“The Sunday School Teacher’s Guide–The Discouragements of Sunday School Teachers,” found at








Serving Special Needs Families


I am very thankful for the growing number of churches that are creating a welcoming, loving, well-thought-out, helpful ministry for children with special needs. How is your church doing in this regard? In his article, “Three Ways The Church Can Better Serve Special Needs Families,” Chris Hulshof gives the following general advice:

1. Create a climate of inclusive hospitality.

… If a family has a child with a cognitive disability, who will be responsible to welcome the family, access the need through parental conversation, and suggest a suitable plan for the service?

…When a church has a plan in place to welcome those with disability, they are demonstrating a generous and inclusive hospitality. It is a hospitality that says, “We have been waiting for you.” As the number of people with a diagnosed disability continues to rise it is essential for churches to thoughtfully consider how hospitable they actually are.

 2. Minister to every member of the family.

…while disability affects one family member it impacts the whole family. There is mother and father who may not have been out on a date for some time because they do not know who to entrust with the care of their child. There may be a sibling whose adolescent apprehensions also include concerns for a brother or sister with a disability…An accessible church will consider how they can address the needs of the family as well as the needs of the disabled individual.

 3. Engage in collaborative ministry as part of missional ministry.

…God has gifted every believer for the work of the ministry within the church. Sadly, those with disabilities can find themselves on the sidelines because no one has taken the time to understand how they are uniquely gifted and can contribute to the body of Christ. This may not be an easy process but it will be a rewarding one. I believe a church that takes seriously the giftedness of their disabled members will experience firsthand the delight of worship without pretense.


2016 National ConferenceGetting Practical: If your church would like to be more proficient in ministering to the special needs families in your church, listen to this excellent seminar by Brenda Fischer, “Disability, Autism, and the Tender Mercy of Our God.” Also, here is the accompanying handout that contains a wealth of practical tips.

There will be a seminar on ministering to children and adults with disabilities during our 2016 National Conference, April 14-16 in Indianapolis. John Knight will be presenting, “From Genesis To Revelation: Disability and His Sure Promises of Help.”

Register Now

(Image courtesy of stockimages at

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