Archive - September, 2015

Now Available: God’s Gospel

God's Gospel family devotion book on salvation

We often think about what our children will inherit from those who have gone before them.

But what about the one inheritance that will last forever?

Christian parents have already faced the reality of their own sin, helplessness, and need for a Savior. And, though our young children’s lives often seem simpler than ours, their spiritual predicament is every bit as real. They are never too young to hear God’s good news for them as they face eternity–but as a parent, you may be wondering how to explain it to them in a way they can understand.

We are excited to announce the release of our favorite author’s first book. In God’s Gospel, Jill Nelson continues the Making HIM Known family devotional series as she demonstrates that even young children can learn about the gospel in full detail. This full color, illustrated book is perfect for parent to read with 5- to ten-year-old children. God’s Gospel has 26 chapters that are the perfect length for a family devotion time or one-on-one story time. Each chapter also includes several application questions along with an activity suggestion.

As you read through God’s Gospel, you and your children will discover God’s plan of salvation, starting with his very first designs for creation and moving through what went wrong, how important and hopeless our situation truly is, and what the wonderful news of our Savior’s sacrifice means for us.

Don’t just prepare your children for this life–prepare them for the one that matters most!

Take a look inside:

Read the First Chapter

View the Table of Contents

Order you own copy today!

 

You may also be interested God’s Word.

 

Awake My Soul and Praise the Lord

Children Desiring God Blog // Awake My Soul Hymn

Each Monday, the Children Desiring God team gathers together for a time of devotions, hymn singing and prayer for each other and each of you. This week, we sung the hymn, Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun, which Thomas Ken wrote based on the following verses:

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Psalm 57:8 & 103:1

Although you may not recognize the title or composer, the eleventh verse is on of the most frequently used pieces of music in public worship…commonly known as the Doxology.

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Encourage One Another in Community

Children Desiring God Blog  //  Facebook Community

When we as a team look back on our conferences, one of our favorite things is being able to connect with you, our partners is ministry. It a joy to meet you, hear your testimonies on how God is working in your ministry, share ideas, answer questions and see you networking with others. While we can’t wait to see you face-to-face at our National Conference in April (registration details coming in the next few weeks), we want to keep this connection going year round and help you meet fellow partners in ministry from around the world.

You are invited to join the Children Desiring God Community on Facebook. The purpose of this group is to provide a place for children’s ministry leaders and volunteers to gather and support each other as we 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.

Who is the Community for?

Our Community has a wonderful group of children’s ministry leaders, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, worship leaders, church staff members, parents and others who use or are interested in Children Desiring God curriculum and resources. The Community is a private group on Facebook. Just click the “Request to Join” button and we will welcome you in.

What is our Community’s Goal?

The Community is a place where you can connect with others who are passionate about teaching the Gospel to children. Feel free to comment on our “Community Gathering” posts or start your own discussion. Here are some conversation starter ideas:

  • Testimonies about how God is working in your ministry
  • Questions about teaching, small group leading, worship leading, team leading, starting a Sunday School program, etc.
  • Questions about specific illustrations, visuals, lessons, workbook pages, etc. (Be sure to mention the curriculum and lesson number you are asking about)
  • Ideas that worked great in your class such as an application questions or activity
  • Resources for finding supplies for your classroom
  • Prayer requests for you ministry
  • Networking–find other in children’s ministry in your geographic area or ministry niche

Enjoy getting to know and encouraging each other as you answer each other’s questions and share ideas!

 

 

Are There Threats to the Gospel in Our Classrooms?

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This may seem like a sensationalized question but I would ask you to read on before simply dismissing the question out-of-hand. This came to mind after reading the 9Marks answer to the question: “What are the most dangerous threats to the gospel today?” What is interesting about the answers is how there is often a subtle version of these dangers lurking in children’s Sunday school classrooms—even in many solid, Gospel-exalting churches.

Here are five dangerous threats to the Gospel noted by 9Marks that I believe are especially relevant to our classrooms. My observations, as they specifically relate to children’s and youth ministries, are in bullet points below each point.

1. The prosperity “gospel.”The belief that the gospel is about God making us rich is a lie. Jesus came to save us from sin and reconcile us to God (Rom. 5:10-11; 1 Pet. 3:18), giving us every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and promising us suffering in this life and glory in the next (Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:18). 

  • When teaching children, do we attempt to minimize the existence of suffering in the Christian life for fear that it will turn them away from trusting, loving, and obeying Jesus?
  • Does our teaching include Jesus’ promise that Christians will be hated by the world? Or do we hold out to them a prospect of being popular and loved by the world?
  • Are we giving our students a biblical and practical understanding of suffering?

2. The attack on penal, substitutionary atonement. Many people reject the idea that on the cross God punished Jesus for the sins of his people. But to reject this is to reject the heart of the gospel itself (Rom. 3:21-26).

  • Do we try to present the children with a “bloodless” Jesus?
  • Do we attempt to present forgiveness of sin apart from God’s wrath being poured out in His beloved Son?
  • Are we giving our children a biblical understanding of justification that is consistent with Scripture?

3. The rejection of the wrath of God. People today are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a holy God who will punish sin. But if we reject the wrath of God we lie to ourselves about the fundamental problem the gospel saves us from (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 1 Thess. 1:10).

  • Is God’s wrath ever mentioned in your teaching? If so, is it being explained clearly and accurately? Is God’s wrath being put in the context of His holiness so children understand why God is right and just to punish sinners?
  • Do the children understand that God’s wrath at their own sin is their greatest problem?
  • Is God’s wrath being minimized by presenting the consequence of sin as mainly a “broken relationship” with God?

4. The rejection of sin. Some argue that sin is just an idea that people in power use to make others behave the way they want them to. But the Bible presents sin—and especially God’s wrath against sin—as humanity’s fundamental problem. Reject sin and you’ve rejected our only Savior who “died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3).

  • Are we dangerously softening a biblical definition of sin for children so they will not feel too badly about themselves, in the desire to protect their self-esteem?
  • Are we defining the true essence of sin to include rebellion against our sovereign Creator?
  • Are we giving children a biblical picture of their helpless condition before a holy God apart from the saving work of Christ?
  • Do we gloss over depth of the problem of our sin by presenting Jesus as some kind of easy fix-it with no demand for true repentance?

5. A man-centered view of the universe. We like to think that we run things around here. We like to think that no one can tell us what to do or believe—after all, we have rights! But the Bible presents exactly the opposite picture: we live in God’s universe (Rom. 11:36). He made us (Ps. 100:3). He rules over us (Dan. 4:34-35; 1 Tim. 6:15-16). We either worship him or hate him—and face the consequences (Rom. 1:18, 25; 8:5-8)…

  • Does our teaching tend to use words and phrases that give students the wrong impression that God ultimately exists for us, to provide for our needs and desires, and that without us God cannot be happy?
  • Do we give the students a strong sense of God’s rightful authority over every aspect of their lives and that they are accountable to Him for every thought, desire, word, and action?

We would never want our children to go into a classroom with faulty electric wiring, dangerous wild animals on the loose, or poison-tainted juice for snack time. As parents and teachers, let’s be extremely diligent to not expose children to faulty and unbiblical teaching concerning the most important truths of all—the essential truths of the Gospel. As a teacher, I want to be faithful to the Gospel. But I also know that I must be wise, discerning, and on guard every time I teach so that these types of subtleties do not creep into my teaching, however inadvertently.

(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Understanding the Meaning

ID-100146182Learning to think deeply and understand rightly is hard work. Period!  This is especially true when it comes to the Bible. Therefore, we believe that Christian parents and the church need to pursue a rigorous study of the Bible and training of the mind for our children and youth. Here is how we state this in our core principles:

We believe that if children are to embrace and live out the Gospel, they must have a right knowledge of God and His purposes, as revealed in His inerrant and authoritative Word. Therefore, children must be taught to properly study and interpret God’s Word. Using an age-appropriate, step-by-step approach, the lesson format trains students to interact with the text using proper Bible study methods. This process begins in earnest in first grade and increases in depth and rigor as children age and mature. Furthermore, we incorporate an interactive teaching style, carefully laid out for teachers, that serves to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills aimed at a deeper understanding of the things of God and the ability to rightly apply the Word of God.

As parents and teachers, we cannot not teach what we do not know and understand. Desiring God has provided a very informative video, “Basics for Reading the Bible,” whereby John Piper talks about the necessity of understanding the true meaning of a text. In it, he defines what is meant by “meaning” and “understanding.” As a teacher who longs to pass on “a rigorous study of the Bible” to my students, I found his definitions and explanations really helpful.

You can watch the video here. His discussion of the above is from the 3- to 11-minute mark.

(Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Understanding and Helping the Families in Your Church

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Does it ever feel like the parents in your church seem to view children’s and youth ministry as a “drop-off” center meant to do the work of discipling their children? Or, maybe as a parent, you feel as if the church treats you somewhat like an incompetent outsider when it comes to discipling your own children? In either case, and in everything in between, Timothy Paul Jones has an important article: “Family Ministry: Three Truths and Three Tips for Engaging with Families in Your Church.” He states,

[Parents] have observed their children’s spiritual development from a disengaged distance. They have watched youth and children’s ministers stretch and strain to promote growth.

Now, in a growing movement in churches throughout the world, ministers are suddenly turning to these parents and shouting, “It’s time to engage!” The problem is that many of them don’t know how or why, and part of the reason that they don’t know how is because we as church leaders aren’t quite certain why parents have disengaged in the first place. The result is frustration. The purpose of this article is to take away some of that frustration by helping you to understand three essential facts about families like the ones in your church—facts that a team of researchers worked with me to discover by surveying hundreds of parents in more than a dozen congregations throughout North America.

Here are the three truths they discovered:

  1. The overwhelming majority of parents in your church know their responsibility.
  2. Most parents are not persistently or intentionally discipling their children.
  3. Parents aren’t being trained—but most of them are willing to be.

Here are his three tips as to what the church can do:

  1. Train more than you tell in family ministry.
  2. Train at times when parents are already present.
  3. Remind parents with grace and love who their children really are.

Read the entire article here and discover how he unpacks these truths and tips.

(Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Everything They Need

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A  very helpful observation and some advice for parents from Christina Fox:

I once had a teacher tell me that a person can lose everything they own, but no one can take what they have learned. If we lost everything but still had God’s word in our heart, we’d have everything we need. That’s because God’s word isn’t just a book; it’s the source of all truth and wisdom. It tells us who we are and how we got here. It shows us our greatest problem and our greatest need. It reveals all that God has done for us through Christ and the only way to salvation. It tells us all we need to know to live for God in this fallen world. God’s word is food for our souls. Unlike any other book we read, it is active and alive, transforming us from the inside out. And it’s our source of comfort and peace in a dark and confusing world.

As believers, we desire for our children to know, love, believe, and live out God’s word in their lives. While it is the job of the Spirit to apply the word to our children’s heart, we have a duty to teach our children God’s word (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

Ways to Teach Children Scripture

  1. Read it Yourself…
  2. Read Together…
  3. Encourage them to read it on their own…
  4. Memorize Scripture together…
  5. Apply Scripture to all of life
  6. Pray for God to work

(from “Teaching Children God’s Word” at www.forthefamily.org)

Read the entire article here.

(Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Inviting Constructive Criticism

Mentoring TeachersOne of the most important things I’ve learned over the years as a Sunday school teacher is the necessity of being teachable so that I might become a better teacher. No matter how many years you’ve taught or how experienced you are with a certain age group or curriculum, there is always room for growth. One of the most helpful tools for me personally is the critique of other teachers and small group leaders. But this usually won’t happen unless you first ask others to observe you teach and offer you constructive criticism afterward.

Here is an example of how you can go about doing this:

  • A few days before you are scheduled to teach, ask another teacher or a small group leader to observe you. Make sure they understand that you want them to give feedback and helpful criticism of the lesson. Extending this kind of invitation will make it much more likely that he or she will feel the freedom to be honest with you.
  • If the observer does not already have a copy of the lesson to be taught, provide a copy to follow along as you teach.
  • Make a list of specific questions and observations you would like critiqued. Provide the list with ample room for the observer to write in his or her responses. The list might include some of the following:
    • Did I seem well-prepared and organized?
    • Did my heart seem to resonate with the truths being taught? Did I give evidence that I am teaching out of a love for Jesus and a desire for the students to love Him, too?
    • Did I follow the lesson, and clearly and effectively communicate the main points?
    • Did I use visuals and illustrations in a manner that was helpful?
    • Did I make clear connections between the illustrations and biblical truth?
    • Was the authority and text of the Bible emphasized in my teaching?
    • (If teaching readers) Did I encourage the students to use their Bibles? Did my expectations seem too much, too little, or just about right for this age group? (For example, did I require them to look up too many texts or read difficult portions, etc.?)
    • Did I use appropriate language, tone, gestures, energy, etc. as I presented the lesson?
    • Was I able to keep the students’ attention? If not, what seemed to be at issue?
    • Did I deal with any distractions in an appropriate and efficient manner?
    • Did I involve students in the learning process in a manner that was helpful and did not lead to silliness or protracted conversation, activity, etc.?
    • Did I wisely handle student responses, especially incorrect answers?
    • Did I state anything that was confusing, misspoken, or probably misunderstood by the students? If so, was it of such a nature that it should be addressed in a future lesson?
    • Can you state one or two things that would have made my teaching more effective in this lesson?
  • After the lesson, schedule a time to sit down and review the responses. Maintain an open and humble attitude. Even if you don’t agree with every critique, be willing to listen and glean from any insights offered. Remember: How you think you came across in the lesson is not always how you did come across.
  • Thank the observer for his or her willingness to do this. It can feel very uncomfortable to critique someone.
  • As you prepare for teaching your next lesson, think of ways in which you can use the critique to implement any necessary changes that will improve your teaching.

If your church hasn’t already done so, you might want to consider a more formal teacher mentoring program that includes an observation and review process. For more information in how to structure a mentoring program, listen to the seminar “Mentoring Teachers” here, and see the accompanying handout available here.

(Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

We Need the Wisdom of the Past

We need the wisdom of the past

The title is a quote from an important article by Stephen Nichols, “Youth-Driven Culture” (posted at Ligonier Ministries). The contemporary church needs to hear his words and think deep and hard as to whether we have promoted an unhealthy and unbiblical fixation on youth in our local churches. Here is how he begins the article,

The subtle and not-so-subtle pulls of the idolization of youth manifest themselves in three areas. The first is an elevation of youth over the aged. This reverses the biblical paradigm. The second is a view of being human that values prettiness (not to be confused with beauty and aesthetics), strength, and human achievement… The third is the dominance of the market by the youth demographic. That is to say, in order to be relevant and successful, one must appeal to the youth or to youthful tastes…

The trend of exalting youth and sidelining the elderly stems from a deeper problem summed up in the expression, “Newer is better.” We celebrate the new and innovative while looking down on the past and tradition. There is a compelling vitality to youth and to new ideas, but that does not mean there is no wisdom to be found in the past. It is a sign of hubris to think one can face life without the wisdom of those who have gone before. There is something about being young that makes the young think they are immune to the mistakes or missteps of those who have gone before. We all think too highly of ourselves and our capacities. Simply put, we need the wisdom of the past and of the elderly.

Nichols then goes on to observe how this trend has manifested itself within the church,

The idolization of youth even seeps into the church. One of the ways in which we see this is in the stress on church youth groups…  Youth groups can serve a significant purpose and can be meaningful ministries. However, they can separate the youth from the other age groups in the church. The church needs to worship, learn, and pray together, old and young side by side. The culture tries to push the aged away. The church cannot afford to do that.

I would highly encourage everyone to read the entire article.

Photo courtesy of Jake Melara

Teaching the Hard Parts to Young Ears

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In her seminar “Teaching the Difficult Doctrines in Children’s Ministry,” Sally Michael addresses the  sentiments of yesterday’s post, “Can We Just Skip that Part?” concerning the necessity of teaching children the “raw parts” of Scripture—the violence, adultery, etc…She answers the common objection that these parts are inappropriate to teach to children. She states the following:

  • An average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18 (according to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s report on “Children, Violence, and the Media” in 1999)
  • Programs designed for children more often contain violence than adult TV (according to the National Television Violence Study in 1998)

It’s ironic that parents who often let their children watch these films object to teaching the hard truths of the Bible. The Bible puts all these hard things in the proper perspective—Hollywood doesn’t.

Sally then gives an example from her daughter’s experience as a young child in reading about God’s command to the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. Sally asked her daughter,

“God told them to kill the women, children, and animals. Does that bother you?”

Her daughter’s response,

“No, because God had to do this because He loves his people, and He didn’t want the bad people with His people.”

This is the benefit of teaching the whole counsel of God—God’s judgment is rightly understood in the context of His holiness and His protection of His elect…

The Bible is full of “inappropriate truth”—two daughters who plot to get pregnant by their father; a brother who pretends to be sick and violates his sister; a king who commits adultery and then murder; a woman who drives a tent peg through a man’s head; a seductive young woman who dances before her drunken stepfather and a crowd of lustful men who then demands the head of a prophet on a platter…and a Savior nailed to a cross.

The Bible does not shield us from the unpleasant and the ugly—it is a true portrayal of mankind. But the Bible always presents these realities appropriately and without unnecessary details, with the aim of producing a correct heart response. We can do the same.

You can watch Sally’s seminar here. Not only does she address teaching the “raw parts” of Scripture, but more importantly, the necessity of teaching children the difficult doctrines of Scripture.

(Image courtesy of Iamnee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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