Archive - September, 2016

VIDEO: “Believing the Whole Counsel of God: How Our Children Can Know the Bible is True” by John Piper

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

We are excited to be sharing the content from our 2016 National Conference. Check back next Wednesday to view the final plenary session (along with discussion questions and action steps) to help you better understand how to persevere in teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation. 

Piper: Believing the Whole Counsel of God

What must take place in order for children to know that the Bible is true, and for them to believe the whole counsel of God? John Piper, seeking to answer that question, begins his message by defining what the whole counsel of God is. 

He notes that Paul was so consumed by his responsibility to declare the whole counsel of God, that at the end of his ministry he could say with confidence to the Ephesian elders, “I am innocent of the blood of all” (Acts 20:26).

Yet the declaration of the whole does not ensure that it will be embraced. Many saw but did not “see.” They saw with their physical eyes…but did not see with the eyes of their heart. What they should have seen…and what they were to see and we are to see is a “peculiar glory.” A peculiar glory that was and is revealed in…

  1. the creation.
  2. the incarnation.
  3. the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Piper explains why the Bible is self-authenticating in each of these areas. And when the miracle of new birth happens, whether for children or adults, they will say, “I cannot not believe that God did not make that.”

Dr. Piper also made four observations/encouragements for those who influence the next generation:

  1. Children begin believing the Bible because their parents believe the Bible. 
  2. Build as much Bible into them as you can.
  3. At some point, God moves in His elect children to open their eyes, by a supernatural power, and their hearts perceive a peculiar glory of God.
  4. As they mature, they have a growing capacity to see and savor Christ, and we have a great responsibility to connect them with the astonishing, peculiar glory.

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. How did Dr. Piper define the whole counsel of God?
  2. Do you agree with his argument that as interesting and helpful as apologetics can be, there has to be something more at the root of belief then answers to questions?
  3. If only by a miracle we see with the eyes of our heart, what role does the whole counsel of God play in the miracle?
  4. Regarding the ministry to children in our churches and home, is there a shift away from teaching the whole counsel of God? If so, why do you think so? If not, what evidence would you offer?
  5. Discuss this quote from Jonathan Edwards: “Unless men can may come to a reasonable solid, persuasion and conviction of the truth of the gospel by the internal evidences of it mainly, by a sight of its glory, tis impossible that those who are illiterate and unacquainted with history should have any thorough or effectual conviction of it at all.” How does this encourage you in your ministry to children?
  6. Dr. Piper ended his message by saying this about children: “If they see the glory…they cannot not believe. So, what are practical ways in which we can help our children see the ‘peculiar glory’?”

 

Further Reading

What’s Your Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God by Jill Nelson

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

“Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation” by Mark Vroegop

“Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God” by Bruce Ware

“Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform” by Albert Mohler

 

Practical Tips and Resources for Worship Leaders

Practical Tips and Resources for Worship Leaders

Read Part 1 of this post: A Vision for Leading Children in Worship

Leading children in worship is different than leading adults in worship because children differ in their ability to:

  • Understand God, themselves, and their relationship to Him.
  • Understand language, ideas and how to talk about God.

So worship leaders must lead in ways that are developmentally age appropriate. Make sure to check out the curriculum introduction because the authors often give insights into what would be age appropriate. And leaders must take into account children who are not yet believers, as well as give thought how to nurture the faith of the children by example and introduce children to a language by which they may learn to worship rightly now and in the future.

So how do we plan a time of worship with children?

  1. Pray for guidance and help by the Holy Spirit (Psalm 127:1, John 14:26)
  2. Be well acquainted with the overall scope of the curriculum and specific lesson for the day.
  3. Determine the focus of the worship time (reflective, repentant, responsive to the lesson, rejoicing in our great God…)
  4. Know what the lyrics express and consider:
    1. Do they fit well with the lesson, curriculum, and focus of worship?
    2. Are they filled with big and glorious truths, while still being understandable to the children?
    3. Do they build faith in our amazing God and the wonders of redemption?
    4. Will they benefit the children if they sing them over and over during the week? During the next year? During the next 10 years? Are they worth memorizing?

What kinds of songs should be considered?

  1. Favorite Sunday school songs of substance
  2. New, fresh worship songs written specifically for children (Psalm 96:1)
  3. Scripture songs (check out the Fighter Verses songs and the Let the Little Children Sing Scripture songbook)
  4. Traditional hymns
  5. Songs from your all-church gatherings
  6. Songs from other cultures (perhaps have missionaries teach a song)

Remember, words are important, so take time to help them understand what they are singing.

A Sample Format for Planning Worship

  • Call to Worship: Helps us draw near and vertically focus on God
  • Praise and Adoration: Songs directed to God or about His character
  • Teaching: Teach new songs, share hymn story, lyric explanations, hand motions, etc.
  • Response: Songs of commitment, blessing, witness, and prayer

Sample Worship Format

Don’t forget to include prayer and Scripture (either read or recited) in your plan.

Be intentional in your planning. Determine to plan and lead worship in a way that helps the children grow in their knowledge, love, and trust of God.

If you have a large age range in your class, you might consider songs that echo or repeat phrases (e.g., This is the Day, Rejoice in the Lord Always, Humble Yourself in the Sight of the Lord…) You could have the older children help lead hand motions, hold visuals, or use rhythm or accompaniment instruments. It is a great opportunity to teach them about what worship teams do and why.

Make sure to prepare lyric sheets/overheads or visuals for younger children (following copyright laws) ahead of time. Show up early. Have instruments ready and tuned prior to the worship time. Open and close with prayer. Let students see you with an open Bible. That communicates more than you might think.

Learn More

To learn more about worship leading, I encourage you to listen to my seminar, Leading Children in God-Centered Worship, where I share more examples and practical suggestions. For specific song sources, check the end of the seminar handout.

Seminar Audio: Leading Children in God-Centered Worship

Seminar Handout: Leading Children in God-Centered Worship

Special thanks to Pam Grano for developing many of the original ideas shared here.

Read Part 1 of this post: A Vision for Leading Children in Worship

A Vision for Leading Children in Worship

A Vision for Leading Children in Worship

Read Part 2 of this post: Practical Tips and Resources for Worship Leaders

Have you ever wondered why we sing in Sunday school? Is it a time-filler or a way to keep the kids occupied? Or is there purpose behind it?

We lead children in worship, first and foremost, because God is worthy of worship.

  • I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised…—Psalm 18:3
  • Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.—Psalm 145:3-4
  • Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.—Philippians 2:9-11

Secondly, we were created to worship and we are training children to be worshippers of God.

  • But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.—1 Peter 2:9
  • After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes…crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”—Revelation 7:9-10

“Worship” is the term we use to cover all the acts of the heart, mind and body that intentionally express the infinite worth of God. This is what we were created for, as God says in Isaiah 43:7, “Everyone who is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory…” That means that we were all created for the purpose of expressing the infinite worth of God’s glory. We were created to worship.
—John Piper (“Meditations on Daily Worship,” at desiringGod.org)

How we worship our great God will vary greatly, but it is important that we remember some basics, and the rest should fall into place as we seek God on the specific “hows” of worship. We must worship in spirit and truth by engaging both the heart and the head, the emotions and the mind. And our affections for God must be rooted in truth for worship to be biblical.

Another thing to remember is to talk and sing to God, not just about Him. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to teach songs about God to help our children learn about Him and to equip them to preach to their own souls, but we must be careful to remember that true worship is communion with God, not just learning about him. (See “Talk to God, Not Just About Him” by John Piper, desiringGod.org)

Read Part 2 of this post: Practical Tips and Resources for Worship Leaders

 

VIDEO: “Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform” by Albert Mohler

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

We are excited to be sharing the content from our 2016 National Conference. Check back each Wednesday to view a new plenary session (along with discussion questions and action steps) to help you better understand how to persevere in teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation. 

Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform

In this message, Dr. Albert Mohler connects our need as parents to “hold fast to the whole counsel of God under pressure to conform,” to the experience of the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land. 

In Deuteronomy, Moses gave his last address to God’s chosen people. He addressed a generation that had not lived under the cruelties of Egypt, nor experienced their culture. Now on the brink of the Promise land, Moses knew what was at stake for them and their children. Would they default to and become like the dominate Canaanite culture, or would they hold fast, choose to follow God, and experience the blessings and favor He gives to His children? Dr. Mohler, teaching from Deuteronomy 6, uses three words to encourage and challenge Christian parents and children’s ministry workers on the importance of 1) teaching the whole doctrine of God, and instructing with 2) discipline and 3) diligence to battle against the pressure that we and our children will face to conform to the culture of the day.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How would you compare the culture of the Canaanites to the culture of our day?
  2. Why did Dr. Mohler emphasize the need for teaching specific doctrine?
  3. Discuss Dr. Mohler’s quote, “We have to make sure they [our children] find themselves in the storyline of Scripture, knowing themselves in that story, otherwise they are going to be in some other story.” As a follow-up to this question, in what ways could you help your children see themselves in the story of the Exodus?
  4. Dr. Mohler, after making the point that the cultural pressure to conform is not new, said, “Christian parents have had to be faithful in whatever culture we’ve lived in. It is so pervasive, they exaggerate the newness but underestimate the urgency.” Have you fallen prey to the newness, or have you underestimated the urgency to teach your children the whole counsel of God? If so, what practical steps could you take?
  5. Dr. Mohler, in reference the “whole” counsel of God said, “no one is upset with the Golden Rule…It’s the word whole that is a big problem.” What cultural norms or trends are increasingly in conflict with Scripture?

 

Albert Mohler Quote

 

Further Reading

Resist the Smorgasbord: Strategies for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

39 Questions and the Whole Counsel of God

Gospel “Poles” and the Whole Counsel of God

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

“Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation” by Mark Vroegop

“Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God” by Bruce Ware

 

 

Small Group Leading 101

Small Group Leading 101

The first few weeks of a new Sunday school year can seem overwhelming, but I found several things that have helped me over the years to be well prepared and have a smooth running Sunday morning.

At the Beginning of the Year

I read the curriculum introduction and found very practical suggestions. I checked out the appendices that provided even more help. And I printed out the scope and sequence of the curriculum so that I could see where the curriculum was heading.

As I prepared for my role as small group leader it was good to remember that my job was not to re-teach the lesson that the teacher teaches but to:

  1. Guide the children
  2. Help them discover answers
  3. Bring them to application truths they have been taught
  4. Make connections with previous lessons’ themes or chronology
  5. Work on Scripture memory
  6. Pray for concerns on their hearts

…all for the purpose of their growth in Christ-likeness and the glory of God.

Small Group Leading 101

During the Week

It helps tremendously to read the Scripture text on Sunday night so my mind can mull over the next week’s lesson and ask the Lord for personal application. Reading it multiple times prior to actually looking at the lesson enables my heart to be impacted with the truth we hope to communicate to the students. Then I read the teaching material and the application section to know the content and possible applications I can help the children apply to their own lives. Looking at the student workbook (or journal) helps me know what we will work on during our small group time and how it connects with the application questions. Writing out the specific questions I want to ask the children keeps me on task. Finally, an essential part of preparation is praying for the volunteer team, students and their parents. After all, only God can change hearts and empower the ministry.

May the Lord bless your preparations and interactions with the students He has placed in your sphere of influence, for His glory and their good (and yours as well)!

Sunday Morning

I make a habit of getting to the classroom early which makes a huge difference. A great way to start the morning is to spend time in prayer as a team. Then I could look at the classroom space and think about how I might:

  1. Minimize distractions to help the kids focus
  2. Make sure all needed materials were easily accessible (Student Workbooks or Journals, crayons/markers, pencils/pens, a notebook to record prayer requests…)

This allows me to focus on the kids as soon as they show up BECAUSE…Sunday school begins when the first child arrives! Greet the children with a smile and use their names—it truly makes a difference and they notice. Engage in conversation as soon as they come in. Sit with your small group during the worship and teaching time. Model the behavior you expect. Be alert for distracting or inappropriate behavior and support the teacher by intervening if necessary. Take notes on the lesson as it is taught so you can adjust questions you have planned to line up with what has been shared.

In Your Small Group

  1. Open in prayer.
  2. Introduce new children.
  3. State your expectations (especially at the beginning of the year and as a periodic reminder).
  4. Try to involve each child as you work through what you have prepared.
  5. Work on Workbook/Journal pages. This is key to applying what they have learned.
  6. Practice the memory verse and teach age appropriate Bible skills (i.e., Books of the Bible), as time permits.
  7. Take time to pray with your group at the end of your time together and encourage children to pray aloud.
  8. Make sure to record the prayer requests and follow up later on possible answers.
  9. Thank God for His help and ask Him to work in the students’ hearts.
  10. Have students help clean up your area and be sure to send home the GIFT page for parents to review.

As a small group leader I love connecting with “my” children on a regular basis. I get to know them, hear their thoughts and learn what is important to them. I pray for them and with them about their understanding of God and the concerns on their hearts. It is a privilege and joy to be used by the Lord in their lives. May your experience be so!

 

8 Ways for Parents to Partner With Sunday School Teams

8 Ways for Parents to Partner With Sunday School Teams

Sunday school is a primary means for building intergenerational unity in the body of Christ. Discipleship on any level tends to knit hearts together, but Sunday school has the unique ability to partner all generations to bring the gospel joy of knowing Christ to the youngest in our churches. A strong partnership of parents (and grandparents) and Sunday school teams can begin now in your church.

If you are a parent, here are eight practical ways for you to partner with your child’s teaching team.

  1. Before coming to Sunday school, ask your child to pray for their time in Sunday school. Taking time to pray together will help strengthen their faith in God as they see His answers to their prayers. It also builds a bond with the class members in your child’s heart.
  2. Pray for the class with other parents. Ask the teacher if there are specific ways you can pray for the class. When you meet in your church community or life groups during the week, pray together for the Sunday school classes represented in the group. Ask your pastor to remember the Sunday school classes in prayers from the pulpit. Pray for the teachers as they prepare during the week and for the teaching on Sunday morning. Pray asking God to give wisdom to the Sunday school team, as they impart His Word, and soft, receptive hearts for the children.
  3. Meet your child’s teachers and small group leader. Spend time getting to know who will be teaching your child. Share with them about your child, their spiritual condition, and those things that especially affect how they behave in class (i.e. shy, energetic, not comfortable in front of a group, struggles with reading, needs help focusing, disabilities, medication, allergies, struggles at school). It can also be helpful to impart family situation information such as death in the family, chronic illnesses, divorce, or an upcoming move to a new neighborhood. Share your prayer requests. Your child’s Sunday school team will be blessed to know how they can be praying for your family.
  4. When the Children’s Ministry Director sends you an invitation to visit your child’s classroom, take them up on it. Young children are usually ‘busting their buttons’ when mom and dad or grandparents visit their classroom. It gives you and the class a connection and builds a memory for your child. You will also have the benefit of firsthand knowledge of the class schedule and what is being taught for discussion at home.
  5. Bring your child to class on time. If needed, make sure to take them to the restroom, have a snack between services or get a drink of water. Attention to these simple needs will help your child be comfortable and the class to stay on schedule.
  6. At home, review GIFT Pages and Memory Verses with your child. The weekly Growing In Faith Together (GIFT) pages give parents the tools they need to reinforce the biblical truths their child is learning in Sunday school. Take time to discuss the lesson, do the action steps together  and apply at home what is taught in class. Then, help your child memorize their weekly verses through repetition, discussion and application.
  7. Offer to help. Ask the teacher if there are practical ways you can help as a substitute, bring snacks, prepare a craft or decorate the classroom.
  8. Let your child’s Sunday school team know you are grateful to God for them and appreciate their ministry for the sake of the gospel in your child.

 

8 Ways for Parents to Partner With Sunday School Teams

 

 

VIDEO: “Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation” by Mark Vroegop

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

We are excited to be sharing the content from our 2016 National Conference. Check back each Wednesday to view a new plenary session (along with discussion questions and action steps) to help you better understand how to persevere in teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation. 

Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation

In his message, “Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation,” Pastor Mark Vroegop encourages us to declare the whole counsel of God to our students and children. In the first portion of the message, he urges us forward by explaining what is at stake and why this is such a crucial issue for parents and the church to address. But how do we actually go about teaching the whole counsel of God? Pastor Vroegop goes on to highlight and explain six “how’s” that should characterize our teaching.

We must declare the whole counsel of God…

  1. Personally
  2. Seriously
  3. Faithfully
  4. Thoroughly
  5. Urgently
  6. Confidently

 

 

His message is a timely and urgent call to parents, teachers, ministry leaders, pastors, and elders. Pastor Vroegop provides us with a wealth of biblical and practical wisdom. I was so encouraged by this message! Here are some follow-up questions for pondering.

For Further Thought

  1. Does our current children’s and youth ministry vision and philosophy include an emphasis on teaching the whole counsel of God? How might we go about evaluating this? (Recall his explanation of unified, balanced, and comprehensive teaching.)
  2. Does my own heart and life reflect the importance of knowing and embracing the whole counsel of God? What areas might be “weak” points for me, and what steps can I take to begin to grow in these areas?
  3. How would I rate myself on his six “how’s”? How would I rate our children’s and youth ministries? How could I appropriately and helpfully address any concerns?
  4. Are there teachers, parents, or other ministry leaders who would be blessed by this message? What could I do to graciously encourage them to watch this?

 

We must declare the whole counsel of God

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

“Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God” by Bruce Ware

 

 

Now Available: The Fighter Verses Study, Part D

Fighter Verses

The Fighter Verses Study, Part DDo 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 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.

The Fighter Verses Study, Park D is the final quarterly installment of the year-long study and includes 13 lessons. The verses studied, which mirror Set 1 of the Fighter Verses Bible Memory program, include:

Titus 3:4-6 (Work of Christ)
Isaiah 46:9-10 (Sovereignty of God)
Proverbs 1:10 (Battling Sin)
Proverbs 3:5-6 (Trusting God)
Proverbs 19:11 (Battling Anger)
John 15:5 (Life in Christ)
John 14:2-3 (Eternity)
Psalm 125:1-2 (Trusting God)
Psalm 141:3-4 (Speech)
1 John 1:8-9 (Battling Sin)
Psalm 23 (Guidance of God)

Each quarter of The Fighter Verses Study is a stand alone part that can be done in any order. Feel free to start with Part D to coincide with the Fighter Verses schedule, start the year-long study now or pick and choose the a part that features your family’s favorite verse or a theme you want to study together.

Learn more about The Fighter Verses Study

Download a Sample of the Study

View the Scope & Sequence for Part D

Order Now!

We pray that The Fighter Verses Study Part D will help you, your family or your small group discover the joy of mining the Word of God as you learn together to observe, interpret and personally apply it. And may God’s Word be imprinted on your mind and firmly established in your heart!

 

 

 

The Holy Responsibility of Parents

The Holy Responsibility of Parents

As parents, sometimes we think primarily of our local churchand its services, classes, and programs—as the main educator and nurturer of our children’s faith. Yes, we need the church. Our children need to see God’s people living in Gospel community with one another. They need to see and understand the benefits and responsibilities of church life: participating in corporate worship, heeding the preaching of the Word, giving, the ordinances, mission endeavors, etc. As parents we must prioritize bringing our children to the Sunday gathering and other important church ministries. But here is a very important reminder from R. C. Sproul:

I don’t think there’s a mandate to be found in sacred Scripture that is more solemn than this one. That we are to teach our children the truth of God’s Word is a sacred, holy responsibility that God gives to His people. And it’s not something that is to be done only one day a week in Sunday school. We can’t abdicate the responsibility to the church. The primary responsibility for the education of children according to Scripture is the family, the parents. And what is commanded is the passing on of tradition.

(From, “The Most Solemn Mandate in the Bible for Parents”, ligonier.org.)

VIDEO: “Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God” by Bruce Ware

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

We are excited to begin sharing the content from our 2016 National Conference. Check back each Wednesday to view a new plenary session (along with discussion questions and action steps) to help you better understand how to persevere in teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation. 

Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God

This week I had the privilege of watching Dr. Bruce Ware’s message “Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God” for the third time! Yes, the third time… and I was encouraged, challenged, and motivated all over again. This is an excellent message to pass on to every parent, teacher, and children’s and youth ministry volunteer. Please watch it and share it. For added benefit, we have included questions below for you to ponder as you watch or discuss with your ministry team.

 

Discussion Questions

  • Why is it important to teach our children and students the difficult things of Scripture?
  • What should be our demeanor when we teach these things?
  • What does Dr. Ware mean by teaching both the “breadth and depth” of Scripture?
  • Why are “anchor points” necessary for helping children understand the storyline of the Bible? By the time your children arrive at adulthood, will they know these points and how they anchor the whole message of the Bible?
  • Why is it important to help children grow in their understanding of specific passages of Scripture?
  • What does Dr. Ware mean by “the glory is in the details”? What skills do your children and students need in order to rightly understand these details?
  • What is true of biblical doctrine and culture? Why is this important for us to acknowledge?
  • Why does Dr. Ware zero in on the doctrine of God?
  • What does Dr. Ware have to say about self-esteem? Why is this important for parents and teachers?
  • Why is it so important that our children and students rightly understand the biblical meaning and pervasiveness of sin?
  • What does Dr. Ware believe we sometimes under-emphasize about the person of Christ? The Holy Spirit?
  • Why must the doctrine of salvation be grounded in grace?
  • What place should the doctrines of heaven and hell have in our teaching? Why is this crucial?

 

For Further Thought

  1. If you had to give a score from 1-10 on how you are doing in teaching your students and children both the breadth or depth of Scripture, what score would you assign to each (10 being the best score)?
  2. What is one step you could take toward strengthening your teaching in the breadth or depth of Scripture?
  3. Does your church employ a curriculum scope and sequence that aims toward both the breadth and depth of Scripture, in an age-appropriate manner? Is the rationale of this scope and sequence being communicated to ministry volunteers and parents? What is one step you could do to encourage the latter?
    (Here are two helpful resources that explain Children Desiring God’s rationale and curriculum scope and sequence: A handout and an accompanying PowerPoint presentation.)
  4. As a parent, what resources are you utilizing to help your children understand both the breadth and depth of Scripture in your home? What is one step you could take to partner with your church and encourage other parents?

 

 

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