Archive - September, 2013

Customer Question of the Week + Friday Contest

Here is a common customer question:

Do I really need to buy the student workbooks that are available for each curriculum?

Before we answer the question, it would be helpful to understand why we developed workbooks in the first place. There are several reasons we developed Student Workbooks (and Student Journals) to accompany our curriculum. Here are just a few:

  • Workbooks for younger children provide them with opportunities for “hands-on” activity, which assists them in their small group discussion time.
  • Workbooks for older children and journals for youth provide the students with a variety of opportunities for note-taking, class activities, personal application, and further study.
  • Workbooks provide students and parents with a resource that summarizes the precept-upon-precept study, in its entirety.
  • Workbooks provide the students with a tangible, interactive resource through which the truths presented in the lesson can be reviewed and remembered.

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Repeat, Review, and Be Patient

Dove

This example from Phillip R. Johnson made me laugh, and it brought to mind similar experiences that I have had as a parent and teacher of young children. It also is a good reminder of the importance of repeating, reviewing, and being patient as we teach.

Children rarely get the whole message right the first time. That’s why the best Sunday-school curriculum has a lot of built in repetition and review.

My eldest son, Jeremiah, was only three when his Sunday-school class began to have formal lessons. I loved having him retell the stories for me, and I was amazed at how accurate he was with most of the details. I was even more amazed that his little mind could absorb so much.

But he didn’t always get the minutiae quite right.

One Sunday he was recounting Jesus’ baptism for me. He rehearsed the narrative rapid-fire, without pausing to breathe: “Jesus came to this man—John—who baptized people, and He said, “Baptize Me.” And John said he couldn’t do it because he wasn’t good enough, but Jesus said do it anyway.”

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Communicating True Saving Faith to Children

I found this explanation and illustration regarding true saving faith from Tedd Tripp to be very helpful:

We want our children to have faith in God. But what does it mean to have saving faith? Starting with Martin Luther, and further explicated by Philip Melanchthon and others who followed them, Reformed theology has traditionally used a threefold definition of faith as notitia (knowledge), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust). Our major confessions of faith show this understanding. The Westminster Confession of Faith 14.2 maintains that saving faith joins believing in God’s Word, accepting Christ’s claims, and “receiving and resting on Christ alone” for all that salvation provides.

As a parent who desires his children to exercise saving faith, I am concerned with all three aspects of saving faith. Therefore, my shepherding must intentionally promote notitia, assensus, and fiducia.

… We must always set before them the gospel truth. Every family should have some intentional and structured times in which the children are taught about what the Scriptures contain. We must faithfully urge them to believe the things we have taught. Some basic apologetics will inevitably be essential as we persuade them to believe the truth.

None of this will be enough unless they entrust themselves to Jesus Christ. If they are to be partakers of eternal life, they must trust in this Jesus Christ who saves. Our children must receive Him, turn to Him, hold fast to Him, and rest in Him alone for salvation. Ultimately, the work of the Holy Spirit must transform our children into people who rest in Christ alone for salvation. Our role is to bring them the gospel and urge them to embrace Christ the Savior.

I used to tell my children about the man who watched a tightrope walker crossing Niagara Falls pushing a wheel barrow. After seeing the feat performed repeatedly, he was asked by the performer, “Can I walk across the falls pushing this wheelbarrow.” “Yes,” was the answer (notitia). “Do you believe that I can do it again?” “Yes” (assensus). “Would you jump in the wheelbarrow and let me push you across?” (fiducia). This is the question of trust.

Our children must know that Jesus is the Savior who died for sinners. They must believe that He will save sinners who come to Him. But to cross from death to life they must believe that Jesus is their Savior. They must get into the wheelbarrow. What they will find is that He is willing and able to get them safely to the other shore.

You can read the entire article, “A Child’s Call to Conversion: Faith as a Christian Mark,”posted at Ligonier Ministries.

Teaching Big Truths and Difficult Doctrines to Children—Part 2

Teaching Big Truths 2
Last Friday, we posted an article and video from Sally Michael about why we should teach big and difficult doctrines to children. As a follow-up to that post, we thought it important to offer some suggestions for how to teach these doctrines in a way children can understand. Here are four “how-tos” from Sally…

1. Introduce basic concepts early, and then build on them (starting at a level the child can understand).

When we teach children, we need to teach precept upon precept using age-appropriate language. Children can’t always see the big picture. The big picture sometimes looks like a dot-to-dot picture—it doesn’t make much sense. But little by little, we explain the dots, and we begin to connect the dots until the big picture can become understandable.

Example: The Doctrine of Sin

Start with simple truth:
Toddler—we do bad things.
Preschooler—we have bad hearts that make us do bad things—we disobey God; we need new hearts.

Add context and depth:
Early elementary— sin is disobeying God; we do bad things and think bad things because we have sinful hearts; everyone is a sinner; only Jesus can give us new hearts.

 Later elementary—God is holy and righteous (perfect in every way); God made us to be like Him; we must be holy and righteous—obeying His commands, perfectly all the time; we are not holy and righteous, obeying God’s commands perfectly all the time—we are sinners; sin is disobeying God; we were born with sin, so we are sinful or have a sin nature; sin must be punished.

2. Use concrete illustrations and explanation.

Example: The Holiness of God

Show a clean, white shirt and ask, “Would you put it in a toolbox? Why not? Would you not want this shirt to be anywhere near a tool box, where it might get grease on it? God is like the white shirt. He is so pure and spotless and good that we cannot bring sin near Him (into His presence).

3. As you teach the doctrine, help the children look at life through the lens of this doctrine—relate the biblical doctrine to real life

Though informal and formal teaching situations are wonderful contexts to teach doctrine, all of life should be interpreted in light of the truths of Scripture.

Example: God’s Sovereignty

If a new child joins your Sunday school small group, you can say to the child, “I’m so glad that God put you in my group.” You have interpreted that life experience for the children through the lens of the sovereignty of God. It was not the teacher who put the child in your group, but God who orchestrates all things.

4. Teach the hard doctrines in context of the other doctrines of the Bible

Teaching about hell should be balanced by teaching about heaven; sin should be accompanied by redemption; and the wrath of God should be set in the context of the mercy of God. Doctrines should not be isolated, but taught within the framework of the whole counsel of God.

In the second half (29:30) of this video you can watch Sally as she unpacks and give numerous practical examples.

Reasons for Teaching Big Truths and Difficult Doctrines to Children—Part 1

Teaching Big Truths 1
Some of you have may up picked up a new CDG curriculum this year (or some other curriculum) and wondered, after perusing the contents: Should we really be teaching such “hard” truths to these young children? In her seminar “Teaching the Difficult Doctrines in Children’s Ministry,”Sally Michael pointed out 13 reasons for teaching children difficult truths and doctrines.

  • So that children have an accurate view of God and the message of the Bible.
  • So that children can embrace the Gospel.
  • Children are not hindered in their acceptance of hard truths by past experiences, emotions, or prejudices.
  • The Word evokes worship in those who have eyes to see its glorious truths.
  • Children’s hearts are typically tender toward truth, and therefore it is critical to teach truth to them before their hearts are hardened.
  • Knowing the Word is the foundation for fearing God and protection from sin.
  • The truth is learned precept upon precept.
  • Gives children a biblical framework from which to interpret all of life.
  • Being taught the whole counsel of God helps prevent wrong thinking that must be undone later in life.
  • So they become mature in their faith.
  • Discernment is trained through constant practice.
  • Children can only see themselves accurately as they look into the Word of God.
  • So we will stand in the judgment as good shepherds.

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Parents + Youth Ministry + Church

FamilyHere is an excellent article by Pastor Mike McGarry, “Youth Ministry Bridges Parents and Church.”

Some highlights:

The most committed students may see me for four hours on a busy ministry week, but then they go home. Students aren’t born into churches; they’re born into families. That’s God’s design, and it’s a good one.
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Fall Gear Up: Marching Orders!

Fall Gear Up

Ministry leaders and teachers: We posted these words from John Piper last spring, but they are especially pertinent as we start a new school year. Pass them on to your teachers and volunteers so they might be encouraged in their ministry to children and youth.

Have you Sunday School Workers ever thought of yourselves as a squadron of God’s commandos, weekly storming Satan’s bastion to liberate his hostages? Listen to 2 Timothy 2:24, 25: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” When you love your students and teach them truth, you are God’s gentle storm troopers! It is truth taught in love that batters down the walls of Satan’s prison. He cannot hold out against the truth.

O, never, never under estimate the power of truth. We handle glorious things every Sunday. We are in a great battle for liberation. Do not be deceived that you hear no bombshells. Do not be discouraged that your medals are few. The Last Day will reveal that the greatest centers of power and of lasting liberation were not in Washington or London or Bonn or Geneva, but in classrooms where truth was taught and young people were “freed from the snare of the devil.” This is no exaggeration. It is absolutely true.

(From “Sunday School as Liberation,” by John Piper, Copyright ©2013 Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)

Dear Teacher, Use Your Printed Bible

As an “old-fashioned” teacher (P.C.E.—Pre-Computer Era), I have become increasingly concerned about the use of digital media in the classroom. Please don’t misunderstand. I do believe there are numerous benefits in using video, PowerPoint™, etc. in the classroom, especially with older students. However, there is one area in which it seems that going “digital” in the classroom is more harmful than beneficial—that is, in using and teaching from a digital Bible instead of an actual, printed, and bound Bible. That is why I so appreciated Matthew Barrett’s thoughtful article, “Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church”  on the Gospel Coalition website. Although it is directed at pastors, all the principles are applicable to teachers. Here are some of his main points:

To clarify, I am not against pastors using a tablet in the pulpit for, say, sermon notes. Rather, I’m concerned about replacing the physical Bible with a tablet in the pulpit. As the pastor enters the pulpit to bring the Word of God to the people of God, no hard copy of the Bible is to be found in his hand, gracing the top of the podium, visible to the entire congregation as the book at the center of attention. Instead, the congregation sees a tablet. While this may seem harmless enough, I believe there are several potential dangers this subtle shift generates

  • …the tablet as a replacement for a hardcopy of the Bible sends an entirely different message to the congregation. Yes, this tablet contains the digital text of the Bible, but visually that tablet represents so much more. It is an icon of social media and a buffet of endless entertainment. Ask my children. The sight of an iPad screams instant access to Sesame Street on Netflix.
  • …the tablet may, oddly enough, unintentionally and indirectly encourage biblical illiteracy in the pew…One of the severe limitations of a digital text, as you sit there with your iPhone or smartphone, is the unnecessary task of passing by books of the Bible as you find the sermon text. When the preacher says, “Turn in your Bibles to…,” the layperson simply clicks on a link or enters the text into a search box.
  • …the tablet may undermine the spatio-temporal nature of church. When a member stands before the congregation, reading the sermon text from a tablet, there is something missing, something lifeless at play…Surely this should rub us wrong, as physical beings who gather together as an assembly in a tangible place. We see with our own eyes a standing, breathing minister preach about a God who is, yes, invisible, but is really with us as Lord of space and time. This God has made himself known by sending his own Son in flesh and blood.
  • …when the smartphone or iPad (or name your mobile device) replaces a hard copy of Scripture, something is missing in our nonverbal communication to unbelieving onlookers. When you walk to church, sit down on a bus, or discipline one another at a coffee shop, a hard copy of the Bible sends a loud and bold message to the nearest passersby about your identity as a Christ follower. It says, “Yes, I am a Christian and I believe this book is the Word of God telling us who we are and how we should live.”\

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What Our Children Should Understand About Work

Work

Today is Labor Day in the United States, and you might want to consider using it as an opportunity to instruct your children about a biblical view of labor. Here is a quote from famous English author Dorothy Sayers that could serve as an interesting discussion starter:

The only Christian work is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery or sewage-farming.

And here are three main ideas for further study and discussion:
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