Archive - May, 2016

Practical Ways to Connect Church and Home

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We say it often because we really want to emphasize it:

We strongly believe that God has ordained parents as the primary teachers and disciplers of their children. The church is to strengthen and assist parents in this mission (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). 

What this “looks” like in each local church may differ, but at the very least it requires some strategic intentionality and practical assistance on the part of the church. It doesn’t “just happen” by default. What might this entail? In the his seminar “The Parent-Church Connection,” Pastor Ron Rudd provided a list of practical ideas. To get started (and not feel overwhelmed), he encouraged children’s and youth ministry leaders to choose one to implement in the month ahead.

  • Equipping Parents—Make resources available to our parents to help them be more effective at the daunting task before them…Give your parents a handbook at the beginning of the year with your teaching calendar on it so they can be using that to reinforce what their children are learning at church. 
  • Supporting Parents—Consider ways that we can back them up and provide some much needed support for what they are trying to do. Ask your parents, “What do you feel you need from the church to help you in discipling your child?” 
  • Encouraging Parents—How can we encourage parents who are worn out, worn thin, or worn down? How do we encourage margin in our families? Ask questions about their families. Begin to know tidbits about who they are. Is their child involved in extracurricular activities? If so, what and how did they choose to be involved in these activities? Parents are generally exhausted. What can we do to refresh and renew them to spur them on to keep up the good fight for their kids? 
  • Informing Parents—Communicate often. Families need multiple points of contact to feel like they know you. Communication can be through newsletters, emails, social media, texts, or phone calls. Use these outlets to communicate general information about upcoming events, weekly Bible content, and memory verses, as well as family activities they can do at home. 
  • Pray for the Parents—Keep a journal to document things you know about them. This will not only help you remember names and various bits of information, but also help you have a record of items on your daily prayer list. The more you pray for them, the more you will desire to know them better. Ask God to give you opportunities to deepen relationships. 
  • Including Parents—Allow the parents to be a part of the planning. Help them know we value and respect them and their input. Provide parent focus groups with parents of children of different ages. Listen well and take good notes during these times. Look for ways you can implement a good idea. Respect is earned. Give the parents time to be heard. Respect requires an investment of time. 
  • Reminding Parents—Do we just expect parents to read the bulletin or website, or the flyers that we send home? We need to hear a message sometimes up to seven times before it actually sinks in, according to advertisers. Can you think of seven different ways to communicate an announcement you want your parents to know? 
  • Training Parents—Parents need training, not lectures. How can we show them how to be better parents rather than just telling them they need to be? Demonstrate how to use the tools in a parent tool box (parent manual, Fighter Verses, memory pack, etc.) Show them these things and demonstrate it for them. Have special classes for them.
  • Involving Parents—How can we make parents a key part of the programs we lead? Consider having a target number of your volunteers being parents. For example: 30% of our children’s ministry team consist of parents of our kids. Don’t be afraid to ask our parents and grandparents to serve in the ministry. If you have a relationship with them they are more likely to serve willing alongside you. 
  • Highlighting Parents—Make much of God! And in doing this remember how He lifts up parents in their high calling of training the next generation. Recognizing parents for their achievements as parents. Our culture beats up on parents. How can we elevate them in our ministry? 
  • Remembering Parents—When those great big plans for the church are being brain stormed, we need to be the one who is asking. “How will this affect our parents?” 
  • Defending Parents—When ministries forget the needs and concerns of parents, and leaders want parents to adapt or stay away, we may be the one who needs to stand in the path and defend their need to be accommodated or considered. 
  • Serving Parents—We often hear how more parents are needed to serve in the children’s ministry. How can the children’s ministry serve our parents? How can your SS class or club programs serve the parents? 
  • Loving Parents—Would our parents say they feel loved by our churches? 
  • Esteeming parents—Parents are an important part of the future of the church. They are the guardians of the next generation and ought to be esteemed as valuable players in the church’s strategy to impact the world. We are called to make disciples of all nations. The most effective strategy just might be to help the parents in our own churches in discipling their own children! Come alongside our parents and equip them in this charge.

(Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

More Important than an ACT or SAT

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Graduation is just around the corner for many of our young people—whether your own children or students in your church. Many of the high school graduates will soon be off to college armed with their completed ACT or SAT scores. Those tests are the big bridge that must be crossed in order to enter their desired school. Increasingly, parents have devoted a lot of time and effort in preparing their children for these tests. That’s not a bad thing…as long as it is seen within a proper perspective.

I wonder if we, as parents, sometimes need to be reminded of these words by President Theodore Roosevelt:

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.

Keep in mind: Theodore Roosevelt DID have a thorough college education. But he acknowledged that there was something more important—a thorough knowledge of the Bible.

So here is a question for parents and the church—How do you know if your children and students have a thorough knowledge of the Bible? Do you have any way to assess this? Is there a type of Bible ACT or SAT you use before they reach adulthood? (Please don’t misunderstand: I am not saying there is an academic type of assessment that is ultimate in determining true saving faith. But there is a minimal body of knowledge that needs to been known, understood, and embraced for true saving faith.)

This is a great question to ponder this summer. Along with that, here’s a challenge: What about parents and church working together to come up with some biblical literacy assessments to use with our children and students—at various ages—to provide some goals to aim for and a means to see if our students are meeting these goals? It could be that you and your church are already doing this. But my guess is that many are not, or could be doing better.

Do you have some examples of actually doing this? We’d love to hear from you! To get your creative juices flowing, you might want to look at these 39 questions that we believe our children and students should be able to answer by the time they reach adulthood.

(Image courtesy of Becris at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God

Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God

We were honored to have Bruce Ware join us again for the Children Desiring God National Conference as he guided us through Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God. Bruce broke the whole counsel of God down into two categories—breath and the depth—to help us further understand its meaning. Video of the conference keynotes will be available at a later date.

Breadth

Bruce shared to steps to keep in mind as he discussed understanding the breadth of the whole counsel of God. First, we need to be a people who come to understand the whole of Biblical content. He recommends using a good study Bible. This can help you understand the historical and cultural background of each book of the Bible, so you can have a better understanding as you teach the Scriptures. When Paul wrote the words, “All scripture is God-breathed…” he had in mind everything that had been written in the Bible, and everything that would be written. Therefore, we ought to pay attention to each of the 66 books of the Bible in teaching.

Secondly, we must learn to see the unity, continuity and development of truth throughout the story of the Bible. As we examine this story, there are many words and themes that are threaded throughout the Bible as important markers along the road. By tracing these key words and themes throughout the Bible, we can see the story that God intended to write developing. However, we do not to just see the developing story within each individual book, but to see the developing story throughout the entire Bible. These things are all-important in shaping both our own worldview, and that of the next generation.

Bruce Ware

Depth

We need to grow in an in-depth understanding of passages of Scripture. We cannot sacrifice knowing and understanding the flow of the passage for committing it to rote memory—but that is not to say that memorization is bad. Bruce commends thinking of memorization as a by-product of meditating. Reading and studying the Bible slowly is important in the growth of our Christian lives—the glory is in the details.

Believers also need an in-depth understanding of Biblical doctrines. We must have a resolute commitment to side with the Bible even when that decision goes against our culture. That means, in part, embracing paradoxes in God’s character. Our culture sometimes over-emphasizes aspects of God’s character at the expense of others, and we must not teach his Word that way. The cultural understanding appeals to us in the sense that our culture hates certain aspects of God’s culture, but we cannot shrink back from talking about them. For example, our culture hates the idea that God ordains our suffering, but the Bible says that he does. This doctrine gives Christians hope because it gives our suffering meaning.

What does this mean for you and your ministry to children?
Consider asking these questions:

  1. How can I grow in my understanding in each of these areas?
  2. How can my affections be more stirred, and my heart more moved by these truths?
  3. How can I be used in the lives of the next generation to commend to their heads and hearts the breadth and depth of the whole counsel of God?

 

Youth Ministry as a Bridge

Youth Ministry as a Bridge

The older I get, the more concerned I have become about a growing tendency of “church flight” when our youth reach adulthood. For some young adults, this is demonstrated by their physical absence from any regular attendance in a local church. However, for many others, it is much more subtle. It is the absence of being an integral part of the ongoing community life and ministry of the local church.

Last week The Gospel Coalition had an interesting post regarding this issue—Mike McGarry’s “Youth Ministry Feeds the Church and the Family”. Here is an excerpt that really got my attention:

When teens have never experienced worship, prayer, discipleship, or fellowship within the congregation at large, why would we expect them to suddenly be pursuing full involvement in the church when they graduate?

It’s so natural to focus a youth ministry on the teenagers. Instead, youth ministry must always remember its context (the church) and build a bridge into the homes where the youth live (the family). When a teenager has a sound faith, firmly rooted in both the church and the home, he or she will be exponentially more likely to continue in the faith long after high school.

Youth ministry is temporary because adolescence is temporary. Once students graduate from high school they are no longer “ours” (as if we owned them to begin with). Teenagers are entrusted to our care for a few short years.

Youth ministry is an important arm of the church where both parents and congregation have the opportunity to co-evangelize and co-disciple, with the desire that God would draw students to himself.

Bridges are important. You can’t get over a river without one, but no one builds his home on a bridge. If a youth ministry isn’t consistently seeking to nourish a student’s faith to grow deep roots in the local church as well as at home, then the student’s faith will naturally develop around the youth ministry.

 

Editors’ note from The Gospel Coalition: This excerpt is adapted from the new book Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide, edited by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson (TGC/Crossway, 2016).

 

 

New Release: A Book That Every Parent Should Share With Their Children

Children Desiring God Blog // A Book That Every Parent Should Share With Their Children

Years ago, before my grandmother passed away, we would sometimes sit and watch the news with her. After it was over, she would invariably comment, “I’m glad I’m on my way out.” This was usually in response to some news report that demonstrated the decline of traditional moral values in our society. I wonder what she would say to today’s news?

One topic that would concern her for sure is the all-pervasive attention regarding gender identity. Something that seemed to be so sure and obvious—male or female, boy or girl—is now regarded as “fluid” and self-determined. Sadly, society is quickly accommodating the new norms in a variety of disturbing ways. As parents, grandparents, and teachers we need to prepare our children and students for this societal upheaval…but we need to do it, first and foremost, biblically. That will necessitate teaching them, from the earliest ages, God’s good and sovereign design of male and female as revealed in His Word. With that in mind, I can think of no better resource on this topic for parents to use with their children than the new book “God’s Design”.

GodsDesign_CoverHere is a brief description of the book:

Through this illustrated guide, parents can begin the discussion with both boys and girls about God’s wise and beautiful design for them. Wrong ideas about gender identity are lining up to influence our children, and they are no longer too young to learn what is means to be men and women!

Sally Michael and Gary Steward partner to bring a male-and-female approach to the topic of gender role – one that is united together under the authority of God’s plan in His Word. Through examples and stories from Scripture, they present this difficult topic delicately and in a way that even the youngest children can understand.

Don’t leave your children to be confused or ashamed of who they are – help them to rejoice in who God designed them to be! 

“This wonderful little book brims with wonder at the Lord’s creative intelligence. It savors the way that Christ renews manhood and womanhood, calling us all to a better plan and a grander design than the world offers.”

—Owen Strachan, President, The Council on Biblical Manhood an Womanhood

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