Archive - October, 2015

Coming Soon: The Fighter Verses Study

Fighter Verses

The Fighter Verses StudyDo you long to have the Word of God engraved on your soul; to be instructed, counseled, and convicted by Scripture; to have your worldview shaped by the Word, and not by the World? Memorizing the Word makes it possible to meditate on the Word, which carries the potential of shaping our thinking and our affections.

The Fighter Verses Study is a year-long devotional for families, small groups, classes and individuals. Each week’s lesson is based on a verse or short passage that will equip you to “fight the fight of faith.” A series of questions, which can be answered personally or discussed in a group, will lead you to a better understanding of the verses. You will be challenged with application questions, inspired by prayer points and encouraged to journal and memorize the passage. Verses line up with Set 1 of the Fighter Verses Bible Memory program.

The Fighter Verses Study will be released in November…stay tuned for more details in the next few weeks!

Learn more about The Fighter Verses Study

View the Study Sample

Read the Scope & Sequence

 

 

Choosing Solid Content over Bells & Whistles

ID-100159550

In her interview for CREDO magazine, Sally Michael was asked:

In all your years of ministry, what is the #1 mistake one might make when structuring and developing a children’s Sunday school curriculum in a church for the first time?

Here is her answer:

I think the number one danger is making a curriculum choice based on the “bells and whistles” that make children’s Sunday school fun at the expense of good content. To evaluate material based on interesting graphics, video content, or the number of activities, rather than on evaluating the biblical content of the material and how it is presented is to err on the side of entertainment, rather than focus on real learning. Real learning involves engaging the mind, not providing active or entertaining components. The goal of the material should be to present solid truth and promote spiritual growth.

Another problem that is prevalent is allowing current trends to inform your content, rather than carefully formulating a scope and sequence that emphasizes correct doctrine and the full counsel of God. When that happens, the material becomes “lop-sided” and children receive inaccurate, insufficient, and sometimes even potentially spiritually harmful  teaching. 

(From the article, “Jesus What a Savior”)

Her last observation is another reason for the focus of our 2016 National Conference on persevering in the whole counsel of God. Watch pastor David Michael’s invitation to the conference here.

(Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Smartphones and Our Children

ID-100103341

On a recent podcast, Dr. Russell Moore answers the question: Should I Get My 12 Year Old a Smartphone? Every parent should carefully listen to and consider his 8-minute answer here.

(As a side note: Our daughter is now in her 30s and has never owned a smartphone. Our son didn’t get one until his mid-20s. We are happy to report that they have both survived.)

(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Looking Backward to Minister Forward

51I1HyEJfHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Are you looking for some dynamic new teaching device or technique to transform your Sunday school classroom? Is there a new model of youth ministry everyone is raving about? Is your church thinking about revamping family ministry to appeal to a more media-driven culture?…It does the church good to be thoughtful and forward thinking in our approach to ministry. But sometimes we forget that the most important wisdom regarding these questions and decisions comes by looking backward, and not by what’s trending around us. How so?

In preparation for an upcoming seminar titled “Catechism: Out of Date, or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths?,” Sally Michael has been reading Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way  by J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett. Here is a quote that impressed her:

…we tire ourselves out by constantly striving to reinvent the wheel. Is the current state of discipleship lamentable? It may well be so in many of our churches. But rather than looking for the latest technique, program, marketing scheme, or impressive model, we would do well to stop, take some deep breaths, and carefully reconsider our course. God’s words uttered through the prophet Jeremiah many centuries ago seem apt for us today:

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not walk in it.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

We agree with the widespread conviction that many evangelical churches are in need of deep change today…Our premise, however, is that the surest way forward is to carefully contemplate the wisdom of our past….In the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments we find an abundance of wisdom for building believers who will live to the glory and honor of our God. There are models and mandates, principles and practices that are as relevant for ministry today as they ever were. Church history also provides us with numerous examples of vibrant, fruitful seasons in the lives of God’s people, when true disciples were truly being made, when whole communities were alive with and for God’s glory. We do not disdain the idea of looking around at contemporary models to find guidance for our own ministries of disciple making. But we do suggest that this not be our only source for wisdom, or even our primary source. Instead, we would counsel, let us look back before looking around. 

(Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, copyright©2010, pages 24-25)

If this quote leaves you wanting to hear more on this topic, consider joining us for Children Desiring God’s 2016 Children’s Ministry Leader’s Conference, to be held April 14-16, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

 

Children’s Books Based on CDG Curricula

Many of you are already familiar with our curriculum and are using it in your churches. And a growing number of you are familiar with the books from the Making Him Known series published by P&R. But did you know that each title is based on a specific Children Desiring God curriculum? Therefore, each book makes a wonderful home devotional companion to its corresponding curriculum.

CPGN

God’s Names was adapted from the How Majestic Is Your Name curriculum.

 

 

CPGP

God’s Promises was adapted from the Faithful to All His Promises curriculum.

 

 

CPGS-web

God’s Providence was adapted from the My Purpose Will Stand curriculum.

 

 

God's Wisdom Cover_blog God’s Wisdom was adapted from The Way of the Wise curriculum.

 

 

God's Battle

God’s Battle was adapted from the Fight the Good Fight curriculum.

 

 

God's Word Cover

God’s Word was adapted from the I Stand in Awe curriculum.

 

 

GodsGospel_Cover

God’s Gospel was adapted from the Jesus, What a Savior! curriculum.

 

 

If your church is using any of the above-mentioned curricula, tell parents about the corresponding book titles. Each book contains 26 chapters written in child-friendly language. Every chapter concludes with application questions to further spiritual discussion between child and parent and a suggested activity.

Don’t Settle for Earthly Success

ID-100208329

Here is a great reminder from Timothy Paul Jones:

Every child is an eternal soul whose days will long outlast the rise and fall of all the kingdoms of the earth. They, their children, and their children’s children will flit ever so briefly across the face of this earth before being swept away into eternity (James 4:14). If these chil­dren become our brothers and sisters in Christ, their days upon this earth are preparatory for glory that will never end (Daniel 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:17–5:4; 2 Peter 1:10-11). That’s why our primary pur­pose for the children that we educate in our churches and homes must not be anything as small and miserable as earthly success. Our pur­pose should be to leverage children’s lives to advance God’s kingdom so every tribe, every nation, and every people-group gains the oppor­tunity to respond in faith to the rightful King of kings.

(Family Ministry: Your Child is Far More Than Your Child,” www.timothypauljones.com)

(Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Hope and Help for Leading a Small Group

ID-100103858

In my opinion, being a small group leader entrusted with leading application after the Bible lesson is the most challenging role in the Sunday school classroom. So much depends on following the lead of the Holy Spirit as you try to discern the thoughts and attitudes of the students and then encourage their responses God-ward and heart-ward. And what a challenge that can be…with a group of seven wiggly first graders or a group of seven sports-obsessed fifth-grade boys! So maybe this year you have found yourself in this new role and are not sure what to do. Maybe you even feel frustrated and are ready to simply let the students have their way and be squirrel-y or talk sports. Don’t give up! There is hope and help.

Here is the hope: While it is challenging, being a small group leader can also be one of the most rewarding roles in the classroom.

Here is the help: You can grow in your ability to effectively lead a small group. Here are a few pointers:

Before the Lesson

  • Study the lesson carefully and prayerfully. Ask yourself: How does this lesson apply to my own life? Are there things I need to confess to God? Are there areas of my life that need to be transformed?
  • Study the lesson and application questions in light of the students in your small group. Are there particular questions that you would like to zero in on? Make a note of these. Are there additional questions you believe would be helpful? Write these down.

During the Lesson Presentation

  • Listen to the lesson carefully and be ready to take notes if necessary. Sometimes a teacher might veer from the written lesson texts and/or key themes. If that happens, you need to be thinking about how you will address this in your small group time.
  • Observe how the students in your small group are reacting and responding during the lesson (i.e., are they attentive, bored, confused, etc.?).

During Your Small Group Application Time

  • Begin with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide the discussion.
  • Ask questions that will encourage students to briefly summarize the main point or key themes from the lesson. For example ask, “If your parents ask you in the car what you learned, what would you tell them?” Sometimes a brief review will be necessary.
  • Move the discussion along—ask questions to get the children thinking along the right lines, and then move to the next question.
  • Ask the children to reflect on their own real life personal experiences and then direct these reflections God-ward. Here is an example from a lesson titled, “God Will Be with You.”

Ask: Can you think of a time when it was a help to you that someone was with you—that you were not alone?

Child responds: When I had to get a shot, I was glad my mother was with me.

Child responds: My sister went with me to get something in the basement.

Ask: Can your mother or your sister be with you all the time?  No. Why not? Why can God be with you all the time?

  • Share a brief personal example to encourage the children to respond and open up—giving personal examples shows that you, too, are in need of the Lord, and this encourages them to open up.
  • Zero in on a child’s statement and follow it through to personal application. For example,

Child: I have to go to the dentist this week.

Ask: Brian, will you go to the dentist alone? [No, my mother will bring me.]

Application: God is good to give us mothers. Mothers are good helpers. Who else will be with you? [God] Yes, God is with us everywhere, all the time. He is the very best Helper of all! Brian, when you go to the dentist this week, tell Jesus that you are a little scared. Ask Him to help you. Ask Him to make you brave and strong.

  • Lead children to praise God/to pray for one another.

Let’s pray for Brian and ask God to help him when he goes to the dentist…

  • Use the Word to bring truth to specific situations.

Ask: What Bible verses did we learn today that can help us when we are afraid in these kinds of situations?

  • Give an application assignment; a way for them to follow through on the discussion—report the next week.
  • Be sure to include all the children in the discussion—draw out the quiet ones.
  • Relate to child individually at the end of the class (e.g., I used to be nervous about going to the dentist too, Brian. But I know that God will go with you. I will be praying for you. What day are you going to the dentist?).
  • Be verbally and facially encouraging to the students when they respond.

Most of the above was taken from Sally Michael’s seminar “Reaching the Heart: The Importance of Application.” I would encourage all small group leaders to listen to the entire seminar here and follow along with her notes. Better yet, listen together with other small group leaders and share and compare your own experiences, encouragements, and helpful solutions. Add some food to the event, and make it a special time of fellowship together!

(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Will Our Children Know the Trinity?

ID-100152899

One of my concerns with the current emphasis on “seeing Jesus in all of Scripture” and of focusing Bible teaching almost exclusively on what it says about Jesus is this: Are we inadvertently minimizing the essential doctrine of the Trinity? Please don’t misunderstand: I am NOT saying that we should minimize Jesus! Rather, I am wondering if, in doing so, we have sometimes failed to show our children and students the importance of recognizing and understanding the triune nature of God and why it is essential to the Christian faith. As Dr. Bruce Ware has stated,

This doctrine is, at one time, a very significant distinguishing doctrine of the Christian faith. In another sense, it is a doctrine that is crucial for us in understanding much other doctrine of the Christian faith. Let me give you just one example…Think, for example, of salvation as we think of that as Christian people. Do you realize that it must be a Trinitarian God who saves if there is to be salvation from sin for sinners? Here is why. When you think of how salvation worked; it required that the Father send His Son into the world. Now, why is that? Because the Son had to come who was both divine and human. He had to be divine so that the payment for our sin would be of sufficient value to pay for all of our sin, for all time. A payment was made in full. He had to be human so he would take our place in dying for sin. It required that the Son submit to the will of the Father and receive the wrath of the Father against His own Son so that God would be satisfied, propitiated is the word that is used in Romans 3, as His Son made the payment for our sin. The Son who comes must live His life as a human being and He must live sinless and carry out the will of the Father every single moment of every day of His life. To do that the Holy Spirit comes upon Him so that He is empowered by the Spirit to live the life that He lived, to speak the things that He spoke, and perform the miracles that He did. He did so in the power of the Spirit so that He could go to the cross as obedient and sinless. Here we have the doctrine of salvation, which requires the Father being the One who sends the Son and judges sin in the Son, the Son who comes, who is at one in the same time both God and man, and the Spirit who is God empowering the man Jesus to live the life that He lived. The Trinity is required for salvation to be true.

(From, “The Doctrine of the Trinity” from www.monergism.com)

This is one reason we tweaked our distinctions this past year in order to reflect our desire to keep the Trinity central in our vision, mission, and teaching:

  • A Big Vision of God

Our curricula aims to acquaint children with the incomparable majesty of the triune God by digging deep into His divine character as revealed throughout Scripture. We believe that children should be taught the beauty and grandeur of His manifold perfections. In completing our scope and sequence, children will have learned and explored, with increasing depth, more than 20 distinct attributes of God.

  • The Centrality of God in All Things

Every lesson in every curricula aims to magnify the triune God above all—His name, fame, honor, and glory. We believe that children will find their greatest joy when they esteem God most. Therefore, the lessons use language, illustrations, and applications that point children toward God-adoration. Furthermore, the curricula challenge children to see that every aspect of life is to fall under centrality of God and His sovereign rule.

This commitment will not mean emphasizing Jesus less in our teaching. Hopefully, it will mean that our children and students gain a bigger and grander vision of who Jesus is in light of His triune nature as we see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit magnified together as the one, true God.

This week, I took this test posted by Tim Challies—to see how well I understand the doctrine of the Trinity. I commend this test to all parents, teachers, and senior high students.

(Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

The Vital Role of Prayer in Discipling Our Children

 

ID-10095434If I would have changed just one thing in my parenting, it would be this: I would have prayed more specifically focused prayers for myself, my husband, and our children. What do I mean by this? Here is a wonderful article by Gregory Harris that I highly recommend for every parent. Here is how he begins,

As with most items related to discipleship—and parenting is definitely a God-ordained and commanded aspect of discipleship (Eph. 6:1–4)—prayer plays a vital role.

When our children were younger, they would frequently accompany me many places I went, including the seminary where I taught. I was asked dozens of times, “How do you get kids at that age to be so well-behaved and be such a blessing?”Always the answer from the heart would be, “My wife and I are not perfect parents, and our children are not perfect children.” Though we certainly did see God’s blessing on our children, we knew they were still quite young and had not yet faced the teenage and adult years with all the temptations and snares and dangers ahead of them (Prov. 1–9).

While seeing God’s hand of blessing, I realized the battle was only just beginning for us—and at times it was indeed a battle, and a very intense one at that, as both the world and the evil one actively worked to attract them to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16).

Part of my answer to those who asked me about raising our children would be that we repeatedly prayed for them and tried to raise them as God would have us do, especially as shown in Scripture. Even then, my wife and I knew we were not in full control; you cannot save your own children; you cannot live their lives for them…

As I talked to other parents about raising children, a similar question would repeatedly be raised, especially by younger parents:

“What do you pray for your children when you pray for them?”

(From, “I Pray This for My Children” at www.tms.edu)

 Read the entire article here, which includes an excellent list of specifically focused prayers.

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

God’s Holiness in the Classroom

ID-10028643

What might happen in our classrooms if we took these words by David Wells to heart:

Until we recognize afresh the centrality of God’s holiness, until it once again enters into the innermost fibers of evangelical faith, our virtue will lack seriousness, our belief will lack poignancy, our practice will lack moral pungency, our worship will lack joyful seriousness, our preaching [and teaching] will lack the mordancy of grace, and the church will be just one more special interest pleading for hearing in a world of competing enterprises.

 (God In the Wasteland, copyright©1994, page 145)

The centrality of God’s holiness…Does it enter into the innermost fibers of our classrooms? If so, how? First of all, we need to define God’s holiness. Here is a helpful summary:

…the word signifies everything about God that sets Him apart from us and makes Him an object of awe, adoration, and dread to us. It covers all aspects of His transcendent greatness and moral perfection, and is characteristic of all His attributes, pointing to the “God-ness” of God at every point. The core of this truth, however, is God’s purity that cannot tolerate any form of sin (Hab. 1:13), and calls sinners to constant self-abasement in His presence (Is. 6:5).

(from The Reformation Study Bible, Ligonier Ministries©2005, page 168)

 

In the Classroom—There are many ways of helping children understand God’s holiness, and then give His holiness prominence in our classrooms. For example, do we…

  • prioritize the time spent actually teaching God’s holy Word?
  • choose songs and hymns that encourage “joyful seriousness”?
  • help children to see the greatness of God by introducing His many attributes and expanding the depth of their understanding of these as the children grow and mature?
  • challenge them to understand the plight of their sin in light of God’s holiness?
  • stress the need for personal holiness in the life of every believer?

An Example for Teachers—that could be used with younger elementary aged children to help them understand God’s holiness and see how it applies to our lives:

Place a large glass gem (from a craft store) or beautiful cut glass object on a tray containing many dirty, ugly rocks. Display the plate and have the children quietly observe the items on the plate for a moment.

Ask: Is there any item that doesn’t seem to belong with the other items? [the gem] Why doesn’t it belong with the other items? [It’s clean and sparkles, is beautiful, etc.]

(Remove the glass gem or object and hold it up.)

  • God’s holiness is something like the gem. God is perfect in every way. He is “pure.”

(Hold up the glass object and look through it, noting that it is perfectly clear, without any dirt.)

  • Because God is holy, He is completely separate from any sin (the dirty items).
  • Isaiah realized that his sin separated him from a holy God.

God is holy. He is like nothing else. He is perfect and is separate from sin.

Because God is holy, we are to respond to Him in the right way.

Q: For example, pretend that this gem was a real diamond and was worth lots and lots and lots of money. Would you toss it in a pile of rocks out in your backyard? Why not?

Q: Because God is holy, and is much, much, much more special than any diamond, how should we act toward Him? [Allow the children to respond, and/or lead them in thinking about the following questions.]

Should you treat the BibleGod’s Holy Wordas if it is just another book, or toss it around and play with it?

Should you act silly or goofy in church during the worship service?

Should you act as if your sin is no big deal? 

  • Because God is holy, we should treat Him and His Word with great respect and honor.
  • He deserves our worship. We should be in “awe” of Him more than anything else.
  • Because God is holy, we should tremble before Him and have a healthy kind of fear of Him: He is great, and we are small and weak.
  • Because God is holy, He will not tolerate our sin. We must have our sin forgiven through trusting in Jesus in order to be accepted by a holy God.

(Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Page 1 of 212»