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

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

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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

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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.)

Will Our Children Know the Trinity?

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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.)

Leading Them to God-Esteem

ID-10049918I once saw two different posters depicting runners. One pictured a man confidently running down a sandy beach with the caption,

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.

Now compare this to the second poster I saw. It depicts a runner sitting on a bench in obvious despair, with his head in his hands. The caption reads:

Failure–When your best just isn’t good enough.

On the face of it, these two posters seem at opposite ends of the contemporary focus on self-esteem: high self-esteem vs. low self-esteem. But as strange as it may seem, they are really just two sides of the same coin, because they both have a common focus: SELF. Just as high self-esteem is dressed-up pride, low self-esteem is dressed-up despair.

What’s the point of bringing this up? Because this same kind of self-esteem emphasis may subtlety creep into our children’s ministry. And so often, secular educational philosophy tends to push us in the direction of encouraging higher self-esteem as we teach and interact with children. To that end, important biblical truths become skewed as they put the emphasis in the wrong place…

God loves ME. God made ME special. God hears ME when I pray. God takes care of ME.

So what’s the solution to this skewed emphasis? Would the goal be to make children feel insignificant and worthless? Here is a quote I have posted before, but it bears repeating and pondering again:

Our aim is not to take a child’s low views of self and replace them with high views of self. Rather our aim is to take a child’s low views of God and replace them with high views of God.

 Our aim is not to take a child with little sense of worth and fill him with a great sense of worth.

 Rather our aim is to take a child who by nature makes himself the center of the universe and show him that he was made to put God at the center of the universe and get joy not from seeing his own tiny worth, but from knowing Christ who is of infinite worth.

 (from John Piper’s sermon, “Predestined for Adoption to the Praise of His Glory,” ©2015 Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)

(Image courtesy of puttsk at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

 

 

Future Pastors and Elders in the Nursery?

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Read on, he is not talking about the little baby boys in our nurseries:

As I’ve observed, many seminary students and other brothers aspiring to pastoral ministry are always on the lookout for opportunities to serve in the church. Regrettably, I think sometimes we have our sights set on only one type of service—public teaching. Of course, nothing is necessarily wrong with desiring to exercise your gifts, putting them under the evaluation of the church, and cultivating pastoral skills for future ministry. The problem is that many aspiring pastors fall into the trap of thinking this only happens by engaging in the adult teaching ministry of the church.

Serving in the nursery may not feel like a time to cultivate your pastoral gifts, but that may mean you have a too narrow or professionalized view of pastoral ministry. We cannot reduce pastoral ministry to proclamation and teaching, though that task is obviously central and essential (2 Tim. 4:2). If we take our cues from the character qualifications given to elders in 1 Timothy and the example of Jesus’s own life, we find a comprehensive picture for Christian ministry that is both more beautiful and more daunting than anything like mastering Greek and Hebrew. Serving small children in nursery might just be the place to cultivate the very character qualities Christ demands of those who would lead his church.

… So brothers, serve in the nursery. Serve in children’s Sunday school. Don’t let your M.Div., Ph.D., or any other life situation or experience convince you that you’re overqualified to emulate our Lord’s example. In our cultural context, picking up saliva-soggy Cheerios off the floor, … and telling a toddler about Jesus may just be the closest thing you ever do to washing someone’s feet.

(from “Brothers, Serve in Nursery” by Samuel Emadi at www.gospelcoalition.org)

As a children’s ministry worker, I am always encouraged when I see seminary students and even current elders serving in various capacities in children’s ministries. It gives us an opportunity to see their servant-like character and also benefit from their theological insights and knowledge. It gives these men a front-line perspective of the importance of proclaiming the glorious deeds of the Lord to the next generation and the specific challenges and joys of doing this in young hearts and minds.

You can read the entire article here.

(Image courtesy of tuelekza at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/brothers-serve-in-the-nursery