Archive - March, 2013

Want an Effective Youth Ministry?

In his thoughtful article The Only Foundation for Youth Ministry Josh Cousineau says the following,

Students have many different needs today: acceptance, belonging, discipline, jobs, and so on. But in all cultures in every generation, all students need a true Savior. The students who every week reluctantly attend your church with their parents have one overarching need in their life. They need to see that Jesus is the only foundation on which they can build their hope, joy, and security. Anything else will leave them needing more, looking elsewhere, and suffering loss.

We have bought the lie that if we can simply get students in the door, entertain them, and keep them happy, we will somehow make disciples of the students in our church. So every couple years, at most, we seek new styles, systems, and methods for youth ministry. In a rapidly changing culture we seek cutting-edge games, activities, outings, missions trips, and weekends away to keep the students happy.

But revamping youth ministry to make it more appealing won’t necessarily solve our problem with reaching and keeping students. No, the very foundation needs to change. In Isaiah 28 the prophet uses the picture of Christ as the cornerstone upon which life must be built.

Read the whole article here.

The Lord, Our God, is Holy

We are so excited to welcome Dr. Bruce A. Ware as one of the keynote speakers at our National Conference in May. This video includes a preview of his plenary session, The Lord, Our God, is Holy: The Revelation Of The Holiness Of God.

We look forward to hearing Dr. Ware’s insights and applications on this important topic!

Preschoolers + Big Truths + God’s Gracious Will = Spiritual Understanding


I love this testimony from a pre-school Sunday school class:

One Sunday during the preschool Bible lesson time, the teacher was telling the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they were told to bow and worship the golden image made by King Nebuchadnezzar. The teacher asked the children, “Should they bow down and worship the idol?” Agitated, a three-year-old girl pointed to the wall where Bible verses the children had been encouraged to memorize were displayed. As she pointed she exclaimed, “They can’t! They can’t–because of that verse!”

What was the verse she pointed to? Matthew 6:24a“No one can serve two masters,”

May we never underestimate the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of little children!

… “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”  (Luke 10:21 ESV)

Families Together in Worship

So it’s another Monday. Maybe this is not the best time for some of you to read about the importance of having children in the corporate worship service. For those of us without little ones, we may have felt annoyed by the squirming and noisy child sitting behind us yesterday—”Can’t those parents get a handle on their kid?!” Or you might be one of those exhausted parents who spent the entire service trying to keep your cool while your kids seemed intent on public mayhem! You might be thinking, “Give me children’s church, or give me death!”

So it begs the question: Do we really want to encourage children to attend the corporate worship service with their parents? Wouldn’t everyone be happier if the children could “go away” to their own little age-appropriate church service?

Last year in a post titled “Children in Worship—Lets Bring it Back,” Jason Helopoulos, guest blogger over at Kevin DeYoung’s blog gave six good reasons why children should be encouraged to attend corporate worship services:

1. Our children are members of the covenant community (the church).

2. Our children will be present in the midst of the means of grace.

3. Our children will be present in the midst of the entire congregation.

4. Our children will be present with their parents.

5. Our children will witness their parents worshipping.

6. Our children will learn the rhythms of church life.

You can read the whole article here, plus his follow-up post, “Children in Worship–Mom Tested Tips.”

Another helpful resource is John and Noel Piper’s article “The Family: Together in God’s Presence.”

Coming to the CDG national conference in May? Consider attending Pastor Bud Burk’s new seminar “The Generations in the Worship Service.” This seminar is designed to cast a vision for the importance of children and adults participating together in corporate worship. It will also provide you with practical application to teach families how to engage together in all elements of the worship service.

Also, remember to enter our contest from Friday by this Thursday, March 21st at 11:59pm CST, in order to win one of three ESV Children’s Bibles!

Where’s the Bible?

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I began teaching Sunday school more than 25 years ago. I currently teach first grade. What’s the biggest difference I see in my classroom today compared to 25 years ago? Bibles. Bibles everywhere. A Bible in the hands of every child. Bibles being opened, and eager faces and busy fingers trying to find Isaiah 44. And when they find it (and many still need extra help), you would think that they had just won a great prize. In reality, they have found a treasure greater than anything they could imagine: God’s own Word!

It wasn’t that Bibles were in short supply 25 years ago, or that first graders couldn’t read back then. No, it was something more significant—an unspoken philosophy embracing the idea that: The Bible is too difficult for young children and too boring for older children. The Bible itself—the actual text—isn’t really all that necessary or clear or sufficient for contemporary culture. So Sunday school curriculum adapted itself to this new way of thinking and, for the most part, the Bible disappeared from our Sunday school lesson times and was replaced by a sheet of paper that gave teachers an “easy to prepare” scripted, summarized Bible story.

But somewhere along the way, many of us started to notice something. There was no longer authoritative power in our teaching. Many children were entertained, but not many seemed changed. And the weekly “easy to prepare” lesson became a chore for the teachers who longed for something deeper and more soul-satisfying.

At CDG, we have a vision for the next generation—a vision of sponges, soaked full, super-saturated. Not, real sponges of course, but children. Children soaked full and super-saturated with the Word of God. Children who see the Bible being read and hear the text explained. Children who learn how to read the Bible for themselves and know how to properly study it, and then interpret its meaning. We long for a generation of Bible-saturated children who come to embrace God’s Word as sweeter than honey, more precious than gold, more exciting than any game or activity, more powerful than anything in their lives, more long-lasting and life-transforming than any new electronic gadget, and more soul-satisfying than the closest friend.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus(2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)

Getting practical: So what steps can we take to make the Bible more “visible” in our classrooms? Here are a few suggestions to start:

  • Always teach with an open Bible ,even if you are summarizing a story for preschoolers.
  • Whenever possible read directly from the Bible. Even preschoolers should hear the actual text read at times. Where the Bible uses simple, straightforward language, read it.
  • In kindergarten, start to teach children the books of the Bible through song.
  • Beginning in first grade, encourage each child to bring his or her own Bible to class. Make sure it is a “real” Bible and not a storybook or paraphrased version. We highly recommend the ESV Children’s Bible.
    Communicate with parents and, if necessary, assist them in purchasing a Bible for their child.
  • Offer small incentives (candy, prizes) for children who remember to bring their Bibles to class.
  • Require children of reading age to look up selected texts and read them aloud during the lesson. Do this according to their age and skill level. Most first graders can, with some help, look up and read one short and simple text per lesson. By third grade, most children can handle multiple texts of varying lengths.

Want some additional tips for specific age levels? Print out this free handout from Children Desiring God: The Importance of Biblical Literacy for the Next Generation.

You can also watch this delightful illustration as Pastor David Michael envisions of the effects of a Bible-saturated generation:

Bible-saturated children from Children Desiring God on Vimeo.

Every Friday we are going to have a Friday contest that allows you, our readers, to share from your lives in an effort to encourage others and maybe win some cool prizes. Email submissions to Here are the details for this week’s contest:

  • Topic: Share a testimony from your church, classroom, or home that will encourage others to make the Bible “front and center” in their teaching.
  • Deadline: Thursday, March 21st at 11:59pm CST
  • Prize: One of three ESV Children’s Bibles
    • We will randomly select three people who submit testimonies.
    • You may submit multiple testimonies, but only one counts as an entry.
    • We will notify you by email when you’ve won to receive your shipping information.
  • Winners will be announced on Monday, March 25th.

Have a great weekend!

Patiently Awaiting the Harvest

Spring is in the air—almost. And as an avid gardener, I have great expectations. But first, there’s work to do. After all, gardening involves hard work. Yes, there’s the actual physical work—hauling compost, turning over the soil, hoeing, planting, weeding, etc. But for me, the hardest part of gardening is the waiting. Waiting for spring. Waiting for the last frost. Waiting for the first sprouts to come up. Waiting for the first flowers to blossom. Waiting for the first vegetables to develop. Working and waiting.

In a sense, that is what faithful children’s ministry is all about. It is like gardening. It is a commitment to faithful work and hope-filled waiting. Sometimes it is hard not to be impatient. Every lesson taught anticipates children responding with genuine faith and bearing spiritual fruit. And while it is true that the Holy Spirit may move in such a way to make that happen before our very eyes on any given day, it is also likely that we will not “see” any spiritual fruit at times. Instead, we might see inattentiveness, boredom, indifference, lack of true understanding, and rebellious hearts. In those times it is especially important to hold on to these words from the apostle Paul,

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6)

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

So be encouraged. Keep preparing the soil of a child’s heart. Keep planting the seed of the Gospel. Water carefully and often with the Word of God and words of encouragement. And then pray that God, in His sovereign grace and perfect wisdom, will bring about a fruitful harvest.

So keep working, because in Christ your faithful labors are not in vain.

And keep patiently watching and waiting, because the Lord of the Harvest is at work!

Looking for an excellent resource on how parents and teachers can be more effective in nurturing the faith of a child? Read Art Murphy’s The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child.

Photo Credit: Lauren Mitchell

Making God Central in Our Teaching

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Here is a thought-provoking question from Pastor John Piper:

Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because, at the cost of his Son, he enables you to enjoy making much of him forever? (God is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself, 2005, page 11)

Now think of asking this type of question to a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old. How might they answer? And, as a teacher, how might you guide a child in understanding its significance? How could this question be used to help get at the root of a biblical understanding about who God is and who we are in relation to Him? How does this question help us to rightly see the Gospel and its ultimate purpose? (more…)


2013 National Conference

The moment could not have been scripted any better. It began with one worship leader and a Sunday school class of 35 first graders. She wanted to teach them a song. But before teaching them the music, she wanted to introduce them to some big words in the song—profound words like “holy,” “almighty,” “merciful,” and “Trinity.” The children listened intently as Mrs. Grano simply but carefully explained the meaning of these words, and then they watched as she demonstrated hand motions for each word. But suddenly, Mrs. Grano’s voice was joined by another—a very soft, almost inaudible humming. Mrs. Grano stopped and listened. She asked the little voice to continue humming, and soon the other children joined in. But it wasn’t mere humming. The children were humming a familiar tune, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” And so, without further comment or instruction, a room full of first graders sang out in seriously reverent voices the first verse of that great hymn. And every adult in that room was moved, including me. What a wonderful testament of what God may be pleased to do in our Sunday schools and homes when big truths are taught to young hearts.

Oh, that these words from Jerry Bridges may come true,

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, 1983, page 21.)

So, as people who minister to children, let’s stir one another up to present big truths about God to the children under our care. Let us consider how to give them “Isaiah 6” moments in which they get a glimpse of the holiness, splendor, and majesty of God. Yes, we want our classrooms to be filled with smiles and gladness, but let’s also remember that we need to provide moments of reverent awe and–dare I say it–trembling!

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! (Psalm 96:9 ESV)

Children Desiring God would love to partner with you in this great endeavor. Please join us for our upcoming national conference May 2-4 in Minneapolis where we will focus on The Splendor of Holiness. Watch this personal invitation from Pastor David Michael:

2013 National Conference Invitation with David Michael from Children Desiring God on Vimeo.

Welcome! A Blog is Born!

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At Children Desiring God, our mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things so that the next generation may know and cherish Jesus Christ as the only One who saves and satisfies the desires of the heart. And we know that there are thousands of likeminded people, like you, who share these same aspirations for your own children, and the children and youth of your church. So we started thinking, How can we better encourage and equip one another? And hence, a new blog was born!

As any new parent, we have some great expectations for our little blog. Here are a few:

We hope that you will find this blog…

  • Informative—by offering posts that relate to the foundational vision and philosophy of children’s and youth ministry, and also include very practical helps and resources for anyone who works in these ministries.
  • Inspirational—by sharing testimonies of what God is doing in the lives of teachers and students, and offering devotionals to encourage and move your heart.
  • Interactive—This blog is not just about Children Desiring God having our say. We really want and need your input, too! You have encouraging testimonies, great ideas, and helpful advice to share with the greater body of Christ. We welcome your comments.

Other questions you may have…

Who specifically is this blog for?

Anyone who cares about the faith of the next generation!

How often will there be new posts?

Lord willing, five new posts every week: Monday-Friday

How long will it take me to read each new posting?

Most posts will take less than 5 minutes to read. Our goal is to make each post less than a 10-minute time commitment.

Will there be any free “stuff” given away?

Yes! Beginning this week, check out our weekly Friday CONTEST. We will have some wonderful prizes from various authors and publishers. For example, in this week’s contest we will be giving away 3 copies of the ESV Children’s Bible! 

So, welcome to our blog. Please feel free to join us whenever you can. And don’t forget share with us your comments, because we would love to hear from you. Let’s work together to…

… spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things so that the next generation may know and cherish Jesus Christ!

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