Archive - January, 2017

Not Merely a Death on Behalf of Others

Not Merely a Death on Behalf of Others

Here are a few questions to ask your children and students (elementary age and older):

Why did Jesus die on the cross?

Why would it be wrong for God to simply pretend that your sin is no big deal?

How does Jesus’ death on the cross show that God is right in punishing sin and forgiving sinners?

What did Jesus experience on the cross? Why is this important to know?

Why is it also important that Jesus gives His people His own perfect righteousness?

If you were to appear in a courtroom today in which God was sitting as the judge, what verdict do you think He would pronounce over you, “Guilty” or “Not guilty”? Why?

Not Merely a Death on Behalf of OthersWhy are these questions important to ask? Because our children and students need to see and understand the uniqueness of Jesus’ death on the cross. They need to be taught the meaning of justification. No justification = no Gospel. While it may be age-appropriate for a preschooler to simply learn and recite that “Jesus died on the cross to save sinners,” as our children age and mature they need reasons that provide a biblical foundation for understanding the necessity of Jesus’ death and what it accomplished. If students hear over and over again simply that “Jesus died for sinners,” will that encourage them to be more or less amazed by His death? Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here—that simple statement is glorious beyond measure. But…

(more…)

“Repent and Believe”—A Call for Clarity

Repent and Believe - A Call for Clarity

We fill words with meaning. The more important the word and what it relates to, the more essential to “fill it” and interpret it with the intended meaning. When it comes to our children’s and students’ response to the Gospel, two words require careful attention: repent and believe. We must be very intentional and careful to communicate these terms in a way that doesn’t diminish the intended meaning. These words convey a serious weightiness—calling for and resulting in a complete transformation of a person’s mind, heart, and will. True saving repentance and belief—conversion, as it is commonly called—is much more than an acknowledgment of true facts about the Person and work of Jesus. Furthermore, while rightly emphasizing what it means to “believe in Jesus,” repentance is often minimized when instructing children. Pastor Art Murphy has some very wise advice for us as we seek to discern a child’s profession of faith:

Repent_QuoteDoes the child demonstrate a personal need or desire to repent of his sin? Is the child ashamed of the sin in his life? Knowing what sin is, is not the same as being ashamed of sin. If a child is not repentant but goes ahead and makes a decision to become a Christian, then his decision is premature and incomplete. Letting a child think he can become a Christian without repentance gives him false assurance. As a result, he may never repent and therefore never completely finish becoming a Christian.

Loving Jesus is an important part of becoming a Christian, but that is not enough. If a child is led to think that he can be a Christian without repentance, he does not fully understand the need for a Savior. He may love Jesus but not feel the need for Him in his life. He may live his life thinking that everything is OK when it is not.

(From, The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child, copyright©2000, pages 75-76)

At Children Desiring God, we have been concerned about this for some time. One thing we have done to address this issue is to be very careful and intentional in our curriculum by repeatedly incorporating the following concepts in the lessons:

  • Highlight the love of God within the context of His holiness.
  • Stress God’s rightful rule over us, to which we are called to submit.
  • Present the problem and extent of sin in a very serious and weighty manner.
  • Emphasize the Person and work of Jesus and what it means that He is both Lord and Savior.
  • Give an age-appropriate, yet deep and rich presentation of the Gospel—one that clearly explains the meaning and significance of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
  • Content that states the clear demand and explanation of biblical repentance and belief.
  • Instructions for teachers to use non-inclusive language when indicated so that students don’t “assume” faith, emphasizing the need for them to personally respond in true repentance and belief.
  • Provide thoughtful Small Group Application discussion questions that go beyond merely recalling lesson facts, but serve to aim toward the students’ hearts.
  • Include helpful supplementary material for teachers and small group leaders in the curricula Introduction and Appendix on understanding the Gospel presentation and sharing the Gospel with children.

Helping Children to Understand the GospelBut we also believe that the Gospel call to repent and believe should be communicated first, and foremost, by parents to their children. Our resource, Helping Children to Understand the Gospel, is a tool for parents to use in the home. In it, much is said regarding repentance and belief, and how a parent might communicate these truths in an age-appropriate manner, and tips for helping parents discern their child’s response to the Gospel.

 

Teaching Preschoolers with a Flannelgraph

Teaching Preschoolers with a Flannelgraph

For preschool classes using the He Established a Testimony or He Has Spoken by His Son curricula, we recommend using felt visuals with a flannel board for the presentation of the Bible lesson. One source of these visuals is through Betty Lukens.

With young children, it is very important to use visuals to hold their attention and help them visualize things that are unfamiliar. For example, showing a picture or felt figures of Abram on a camel in a caravan will help children understand the unusual mode of transportation and the barren conditions of the slow journey Abram faced.

Tips for Teaching with a Flannelgraph

Less is more when using a flannelgraph. Sometimes spiritual truths can get lost in the busyness of illustrating the story. For example, using enough male figures to show all of Joseph’s brothers takes more time than their role warrants. A single group of men can represent the “brothers,” even if it only shows a few. You may discover that you cannot show Pharaoh’s chariots following Israel into the Red Sea because the chariot faces the wrong direction and is four inches taller than the parted walls of water. But, you can use the chariot piece to show what a chariot is.

While teaching, be sure children know the story is coming from the Bible. Keep your Bible open in front of you while teaching and read verses directly from your Bible where appropriate as you tell the story.

Before class, it is helpful to stack the felt pieces in the order that you will use them and set up your background. Start out simply by just putting key figures on the board, or moving a figure from one spot to another to demonstrate movement. The short attention span of a preschooler is better filled with God-themes than a technically precise depiction of everything that happened in a story.

The manual that comes with the Betty Lukens flannelgraph set is helpful in finding and choosing the felt pieces that fit particular Bible stories. Detailed information about preparing to teach the preschool lessons is included in He Established a Testimony and He Has Spoken by His Son. We do no recommend teaching the Bible stories from the Betty Lukens manual.

Flannel board and felt pieces can be very versatile and customizable to the story. Betty Lukens pieces are available in two sizes. The 6-inch size is easier to use and works well with small groups of children. But, if you have a large group of children, the 12-inch size is easier for the children to see. Having an interior and exterior board is very helpful, but you can substitute the dark, plain board (intended for night sky scenes) with a dark flannel cloth placed over another board.

Betty Lukens offers a filing system for the pieces that is well worth the price. If you are new to using the flannelgraph, take the time to browse the filing system so you have in mind the range of pieces available. The felt pieces will arrive printed on sheets that need to be cut out. Recruit some help to cut out all the pieces and file them before the year starts; your weekly preparation time is better spent studying the Word than cutting out pieces. The Deluxe Bible Set is best to accompany the full, chronological Bible overview found in the Children Desiring God preschool curriculum.

To learn more about teaching preschoolers and see an example lesson being taught with using the flannelgraph, we recommend watching the Preschool Lesson Preparation and Preschool Teaching and Small Group Leading seminars.

Alternative Preschool Visual Options

For some situations, flannelgraph may not be practical or within your budget. Here are some other options to use when teaching the preschool lessons:

  • New Tribes Missions: They provide a variety of Bible pictures, maps and charts and coloring pictures to supplement your teaching. We recommend considering their chronological Bible picture sets which are available in a variety of print options or electronically.  
  • Free Bible Images: These downloadable photos and illustrations that you can print out are a free starting point, but they will not cover all of the stories in the preschool lessons.

 

“My child doesn’t want to go to church!”—Part 2

My Child Doesn't Want to Go to Church - Part 2

Read Part 1 for suggestions 1-5.

Somewhere along the way in our parenting, one or more of our children will likely express the above sentiment on any given Sunday. Yesterday’s post presented five suggestions for addressing the issue. Today I would like to present five more. Again, keep in mind that how you apply each may look very different depending on the age of the child—but the basic principles are the same.

6. Consider if any of your words and attitudes toward the church have contributed to your child’s perception.

Our words and attitudes make a great impression on our children. What we say aloud and the tone in which we say it often turns up in our children. If I, as a parent, establish a pattern of verbally criticizing the sermon, or the singing or other things related to the church, should I be surprised if my children don’t want to go to church? Ouch! I must ask, “Is my child’s negative attitude toward church in any way sparked and fueled by me?” If so, I need to confess this before the Lord, repent, ask His forgiveness, and commit to guard my heart and words in the future. I should also humbly confess to my children any sinful attitudes or words they have observed in me.

On a similar note, more times than I care to remember, by the time our family got in the car to go to church, I was barely on speaking terms with them! A real Sunday morning meltdown. Too little sleep the night before. Couldn’t find my Bible. Arguing with my husband during breakfast, etc. All things that started in me and came to be expressed through me. This can sour Sunday morning for the whole family. If that becomes the pattern, our children may come to associate going to church with mom or dad’s “bad attitude.” 

7. If the classroom experience is proving unworkable for your child, look for alternate ministry and learning opportunities during that time.

We had a child who really didn’t want to go to Sunday school at one time. After talking to him to get at the heart of the issue, we went and observed the class and noted some serious, legitimate concerns. We talked with teachers/leaders in order to communicate our concerns, and also to get their perspective. After careful consideration, we decided that this particular classroom situation could not be resolved in a manner that was beneficial to our child. So we decided to let him opt out of that class. However, we made clear that simply “hanging out” during the Sunday school hour was not an option. He must invest that time within another class or ministry of the church. We helped him find a suitable option and he thrived.

8. Understand that your child’s own heart condition may be at the root or a great contributor to the problem.

This is one that is hard for every parent to hear, but we must hear it: Our child may hate church because he or she is not a believer and is dull or even hostile toward spiritual things. No amount of denial, no amount of wishful thinking, no number of excuses can serve to cover-up this heart-breaking reality. As parents, our first instinct may be to demand change in the program: Make the classroom more fun. Make the youth group more entertaining and “relational.” Have less serious Bible teaching to allow more time to hang out. Before pondering any of these seemingly helpful solutions, we need to understand that changes such as these are not going to ultimately deal with our child’s heart issue. Furthermore, making Sunday school more fun or entertaining often serves in encouraging an unbeliever to happily continue along the path of unbelief as he or she feels comfortable within this more casual environment.

10 Tips to Help Your Child Love Church - Part 2

9. Pray, pray, pray!

Never underestimate or underutilize the power of prayer. Pray with your child and for your child.

  • On Saturday night, pray with your child about his or her Sunday morning experience. Dads: consider praying a “Saturday Night Special” blessing for your child using the booklet and blessing cards titled, A Father’s Guide to Blessing His Children.
  • Before your child enters the Sunday school room, pray with him or her.
  • Commit yourself to praying for your child’s heart toward the Lord.
  • Commit yourself to praying for your child’s teachers and the other students in the class.
  • Pray that the church as a whole—with all its members and ministries—will grow in displaying a beautifully attractive picture of what it means to love, honor, and cherish Christ.

10. God is sovereign, so never, never, never give up!

When a parent first hears the words, “I hate church. I don’t want to go!” it can be shocking and heart-breaking. Also, for utterly selfish reasons, it can be really frustrating for the parent. One more hassle to deal with. Out of fear or inconvenience it is tempting to throw in the towel and give up, “Fine, we just won’t go then.” Please, don’t take this option. Consider…

  • You and your children need the church. Your children, whether believers or unbelievers, need this means of God’s grace in their lives if they are to flourish.
  • Often, and by God’s grace, this negative attitude toward the church lasts for a season of time (even if it feels like forever!). Weather the storm, keep praying for and encouraging your child to weather the storm, too.
  • Without realizing it, your child may be absorbing more spiritual benefits from the worship service and the classroom than he or she, or you are aware. Seeds of faith are being planted, unseen to the human eye.
  • God is ultimately sovereign over your child’s heart.

Here is a final, encouraging word from a recent article by Nancy Guthrie:

…anyone who’s been a parent for long knows parenting requires a lot more than simply following the right steps to success. To raise a child toward godliness, we need much more than the good advice parenting experts have to offer. We need what only the Scriptures have to offer.

We need the commands and expectations of Scripture to keep us from complacency, and the grace and mercy of Scripture to save us from guilt. We need Scripture to puncture the pride that rises up in us when our child is doing well and we’re tempted to take the credit. And we need Scripture to save us from the despair that threatens to sink us when our child is floundering and we’re tempted to take all the blame.

While we have influence and responsibility, we don’t have control over our child. We can teach our child the Scriptures, but we can’t be the Holy Spirit in our child’s life. We can confront sinful patterns that need to change, but we can’t generate spiritual life that leads to lasting change. Only the Spirit can do that.

What we can do is pray for and parent our child the best we know how. We can keep trusting God to do what we cannot

(“Divine Words for Desperate Parents,” www.thegospelcoalition.org)

“My child doesn’t want to go to church!”—Part 1

My Child Doesn't Want to Go to Church - Part 1

Sadly, I’ve heard this statement from more than a few parents over the years. Some even say, “My child hates to go to church.” It can turn Sunday mornings into a miserable experience for parents and children alike. I have had some desperate, frazzled parents arrive at the classroom with a young child who is literally kicking and screaming. What’s a parent to do? Here are five general suggestions that may be helpful. How you apply each may look very different depending on the age of the child—but the basic principles are the same.

  1. Set aside time alone with your child to discuss his or her negative attitude toward church.

Ask specific questions that aim for the heart of the matter. This may take some time. Gently ask probing questions: Did something specific happen in class? What about the service don’t you like? What would you want changed? Sometimes children and youth are embarrassed to express hidden fears and anxieties. “I hate going” may be, in reality, “I don’t want to have to read aloud in class.” Or, “None of the other kids talk to me.” On the other hand, it could be that the child is expressing a more serious spiritual rebellion. Listen to your child. Know and clarify the real issues before responding and taking action. Acknowledge true feelings, but help your child to reflect on his or her feelings in light of God’s Word. Our feelings and emotions need to come under the authority of Scripture. As parents, we need to be careful in helping our children see this. We must also help them recognize unrealistic expectations. 

  1. Communicate the “non-negotiables” lovingly, yet firmly.

From the time my children were very young they learned that the car wouldn’t go unless everyone had their seatbelts on. It was a non-negotiable rule whether they were 5 years old or 15 years old. Parents need to communicate a similar mindset when it comes to going to the corporate worship service—and, in most cases, Sunday school. (I’ll talk about exceptions to this last one in Part 2 tomorrow.) “You may not like going to church or sitting through the service, but we are your parents and we love you. God loves you, too, and has given us the authority, privilege, and responsibility to instruct you in His ways. One of the important ways we do this is by gathering together on the Lord’s Day to worship with other Christians and sit under the preaching of the Word. We are going to do this as a family—that means you, too.”

Please parents, take the lead in this and don’t relinquish your God-ordained authority! Sadly, I know of families who left wonderful, vibrant, God-exalting churches simply because their children expressed unhappiness with a particular aspect of Sunday school or youth ministry. Yes, there are times when parents may determine that a change in church is necessary, but a child’s dissatisfaction with secondary issues should not be a main consideration.

  1. Carefully examine your child’s expressed thoughts and feelings and measure these against other reliable perspectives when applicable.

I don’t know about your children, but there were times that my children overacted to a situation, exaggerated or embellished a story, or simply related to me a limited perspective—leaving out some important facts or nuances! All that to say: don’t assume your child has the best perspective in any given situation. “I hate Sunday school because the teacher is SO boring!” Why not sit in and observe a lesson. Maybe the teacher is great but your child is not interested in spiritual things. Maybe the teacher is a little boring…that is a teachable moment, too. What if your child told you that he or she was bored in math class? How might you respond? Just because something is presented in a boring manner, that doesn’t mean your child cannot benefit from what is being taught, or grow in the discipline required in being attentive even when it is hard to do. Your child can also learn to be thankful and supportive of a teacher who is graciously serving the class. 

10 Tips to Help Your Child Love Church - Part 1

  1. Address legitimate concerns with the appropriate teachers and leaders.

In my experience, many children and students needlessly experience Sunday morning anxiety due to a simple lack of communication. A classroom incident was not dealt with because a teacher didn’t realize what happened, or responded wrongly. Perhaps a student had a special need that was not communicated to his or her small group leader. Sometimes a face-to-face meeting between parents, student, and teacher can resolve these issues. In regard to the corporate worship service, this can be a little more difficult. However, it may still be appropriate for parents—or even a group of parents—to ask to meet with a pastor, elder, and/or worship leader and humbly suggest ways that children could be made to feel more welcomed in the worship service. Small things, such as the pastor intentionally addressing children and youth at one point in the sermon can be helpful. Allowing children and youth to serve as ushers or to hand out bulletins may help them feel included and valued.

  1. Look for ways to practically help and encourage your child.

A little creative thinking and planning can go a long way.

  • For example, if the issue is that a child is having a hard time sitting through a long worship service, consider a special “Sunday bag” with a Bible, colored pencils, crayons, and even a My Church Notebook to use.
  • Help minimize Sunday morning anxiety by having your children pick out clothing Saturday night. Make sure your child has gathered and laid out everything he or she will need. Sometimes it not so much that a child hates going to church as it is the stress of the frantic Sunday morning process of getting out the door.
  • If your church posts the “Order of Service” online, read it with your children so they will know what to expect.
  • If a child is having a particularly difficult time, offer some incentive, such as a small reward. This can be especially helpful for dealing with a teenager. However, I would suggest that the incentive be something that is “relational” in nature—going out for a special time away with dad or mom.
  • Offer to visit and sit in on the classroom if this would be helpful.

Read Part 2 for suggestions 6-10.

 

 

Encouraging Children to Memorize Scripture

Encouraging Children to Memorize Scripture

Scripture memory should be valued because of the blessing of putting God’s Word into your mind. However, a few incentives along the way can encourage those who have never tried Bible memory, motivate those who need help persevering in memorization and build community through shared celebrations. This is especially true for children and youth. Incentives need not be expensive and can be seen as celebrations.

Here are some recommendations for incentives for children and youth that can be given by churches or parents:

  • Award toddlers through kindergarteners (ages 2-6) a Fighter Verses Tote Bag. This blue bag features Proverbs 18:10 and a picture of a strong tower. Encourage children to memorize five verses to earn their bag. For every five verses (or more for older children) after that, award the child a gem or button star which can be sewed or glued onto the bag.
  • Take a Swordbearer Picture with a knight. When a child of any age memorizes and recites 100 verses, take his picture and post it on a bulletin board with the other sword bearers. If you have a metal knight as your Scripture memory program, that is the perfect backdrop. If not, you can make a lifesize poster of a knight, paint a wooden knight cutout or write out Ephesians 6 on a background.
  • Help your child plan a special celebration. Allow him or her to choose a favorite meal to have for dinner, invite a friend to play, have a sleepover, play a favorite game with the family or plan a family outing to a museum or nature preserve.
  • Give your child a gift to help him or her grow spiritually. Consider giving a book (biography of a Christian, missionary story, devotional), a print or painting of their favorite verse, a worship CD, tickets to a worship concert, a Fighter Verses Journal to record reflections on the word or a Fighter Verses Coloring Book.
  • Set a higher goal for rewarding youth with bigger incentives. For example, at 50 verses, let the student select a Christian music CD of their choice out of a collection approved by your staff. At 100 verses, award the student with a pocket-size Bible. At 150 verses, award the student with a pizza party (you may want to wait for a number of students to reach this level before giving the party).
  • Plan church events for families several times throughout the year to celebrate Bible memory. These events should be occasions for all families to celebrate the joy of Bible memory, rejoicing in God’s faithfulness and goodness. It should also be an opportunity to be encouraged and learn from the way He has worked in the lives of other people. Consider planning a pizza party, family game night or picnic in a park.

As you consider different incentive options, we recommend reading this Godward Recognition for Bible Memory to ensure you are fueling God-honoring thanksgiving rather than self-centered pride.

Download these Memory Verse Charts to help you track verses your children have memorized.

Fighter Verses Knights

For many years, churches have used the Fighter Verses Knights from Children Desiring God as incentives to encourage children to hide God’s Word in their hearts. Unfortunately, the Fighter Verses Knights have been discontinued and are no longer available.

We are sorry for any disappointment or inconvenience this may cause you and your church. We recommend using the list above to help you brainstorm a new incentive or tradition your church or family can use to encourage Bible memory. If you are interested in a replacement that is more similar to the knights, you might want to check out these options:

May the Lord bless everyone who treasures His Word up in their heart!

 

 

Encouraging Active Minds in the “Knowing” Process

Encouraging Active Minds in the Learning Process

I am fully convinced that one of the great challenges we have before us in teaching the next generation to know, honor, and treasure Christ comes in regards to the “know” part. While humbling acknowledging that only God can bring about genuine saving faith, we as parents and teachers, have a sacred responsibility to provide our children and students with the essential knowledge they need to understand the Bible and the message of the Gospel. After all, you cannot honor and treasure that which you do not know. Furthermore, that knowledge must go beyond a simple “rote” memorization of facts. The Christian walk requires the mind to interact with the Bible. Consider this statement by Dr. Albert Mohler:

Christian faithfulness requires the development of the believer’s intellectual capacities in order that we may understand the Christian faith, develop habits of Christian thought, form intuitions that are based upon biblical truth, and live in faithfulness to all that Christ teaches. This is no easy task, to be sure. Just as Christian discipleship requires growth and development, intellectual faithfulness requires a lifetime of devoted study, consecrated thinking, and analytical reflection.

(“The Glory of God in the Life of the Mind,” at albertmohler.com )

This statement reflects a serious commitment to a rigorous training of the mind. Helping our children and students really learn how to think, and not merely absorb information. Here are a few practical ways that you and your church can encourage this type of mind engagement. (Note: Children Desiring God curricula is written with all the following incorporated into our lessons.

1. Choose curricula that fosters active learning.

  • Look for both solid content and a teaching style that engages the mind.

2. Make sure your lesson has a logical order and structure.

  • Children and youth will be more engaged if they see a logical progression in the subject matter. The subject matter is easier to recall and understand.
  • A logical flow helps students actively learn by encouraging organized thought patterns. This becomes increasing important as our students examine more and more complex texts and topics.

3. Understand the cognitive abilities of the age group you are teaching, and use age-appropriate teaching methods and language.

  • Make an intentional, concentrated effort to restore, train, and stretch our students’ ability to pay attention.

Consider the following from Garry Williams of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals:

Meditation is a divinely commanded duty and delight. We are commanded not to flit around. But, we may wonder, if people’s brains are trained out of sustained attention, won’t doing it put them off? I think we have no choice. We have to be teachers not only of the content of revelation, but also of its prescribed form.

(“The World in the Church: A Distracted World, a Distracted Church?,”www.reformation21.org)

4. Capture their attention with meaningful “hooks” in order to ignite their minds and direct their thoughts toward learning biblical truth.

Encouraging Active Minds in the Knowing Process5. Use a question-and-answer format that encourages students to observe, ponder, analyze, discover, evaluate, imagine, summarize, organize, and arrive at correct conclusions and appropriate applications—all while interacting with the actual text of the Bible.

  • Start with simple questions and move to more complex ones that then also become more personally challenging.

6. Incorporate visuals, charts, illustrations, and real-life scenarios that help the mind process and understand biblical concepts.

  • These tools encourage active minds. They use concrete concepts to spur more abstract thinking.
  • They help the mind to look at the biblical text, observe it carefully, discover its meaning, and make meaningful applications.

7. Use” heart” (emotional) response as a means to engage the mind.

8. Incorporate competition and challenge as a mental motivator.

9. Restate questions in a different way—use opposites, analogies, exaggerations, etc. to spur thinking and encourage responses.

10. Encourage honest student feedback and use it to help them reason and respond biblically.

 

Please note: Teaching in this manner is HARD WORK for both student and teacher. It goes against the flow of many popular resources designed for children’s and youth ministry. Sunday school may almost come have a “school” feel to it, and not just a fun place to hang out on Sunday’s with friends. But the stakes are huge! Consider this quote from John Piper:

There is an odd notion that, if we use our minds to grow in our knowledge of God, mystery will diminish, and with it a sense of wonder and reverence. I call this notion odd for two reasons. One is that, no matter how many millions of ages I use my mind to know more and more of God’s majesty, his glories will never be in danger of being exhausted. What is not yet known of God by finite creatures will always be limitless. You honor this truth more by shameless growth in the knowledge of God.

 And the second reason I find the notion odd that thinking about God and knowing more and more of God jeopardizes our worship of God, is that without knowing him we can’t worship in a way that honors him. God is not honored when people get excited about how little they know of him.

(John Piper, “The Life of the Mind and the Love of God,” www.desiringGod.org)

For more information on this topic, you can download this handout from my seminar “Encouraging Active Minds in the Learning Process.”

 

Helping Our Children When Church Life Gets Messy

Helping Children When Church Life Gets Messy

I love the church, and I am so blessed that my family has had the great privilege of living in community with hundreds of godly men and women over the years. In regards to my children, the local church loved, equipped, encouraged, and exhorted them in their walk with the Lord. They have received a wonderful spiritual legacy, as countless pastors, leaders, teachers, and members have exemplified a life of faith—displaying what it means to love, trust, and walk in obedience to Christ.

But we must also be prepared to help our children when church life gets “messy.” For example, suppose a professing Christian you have highly respected for years leaves the church and abandons the faith. Or maybe your church is in the midst of a conflict between members, evidenced by public gossip and slander. Or a much-loved couple teaching in your children’s in Sunday school announces they are separating. These kinds of situations can make an impression on our children’s hearts and minds…and sometimes that impression can seriously taint their understanding of the church, the Christian faith, and God. Therefore, parents and teachers need to be prepared to carefully guide our children in such a way that they will not be shaken by these events.

Helping Children When Church Life Gets MessyIn his book, The Disciple-Making Parent—A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ Pastor Chap Bettis writes a helpful section on helping children handle hypocrisy and sin within the church. Here is a quick summary of his main points:

  • We can start by reminding children that Jesus predicted hypocrisy and worldliness in his church.
  • We can agree with our children that these things are wrong.
  • We can teach about the power of indwelling sin and the final judgment to sort everything out.
  • We can teach them that this sin reminds us of the great Savior we have.
  • We can teach them to forgive.

Please get the book and carefully read Pastor Bettis’ explanation of each point—the above summary does not do justice to this important topic he has covered! He concludes with this important reminder:

Community, with all its problems, is God’s gift to us. The positive examples provide balancing input. The not-so-positive examples provide teaching opportunities. The church is Jesus’ bride and the pillar and foundation of truth. With all her flaws, the church is dear to Christ and should be dear to any parents who want their child to follow the Lord as an adult.

(copyright©2016, pages 60-61)

Strategies for Church-Wide Bible Memorization

churchwidestrategies_header

Here at Children Desiring God, we have been excited to see so many churches start memorizing Fighter Verses together as a church this month. It is easy to generate excitement for Bible memory when you are just starting the program or at the beginning of a new year. However, you will want to think of ways to keep Bible memory as an important priority throughout the year.

There are many tangible ways that the pastors and elders can lead the congregation in the desire and practice of Bible memory and ways the church can motivate members throughout the year:

Sunday Morning

  • During the Sunday morning announcements, ask for a volunteer to recite the weekly memory verse. If no one volunteers, ask another pastor or elder to try to recite the verse.
  • Pray the Fighter Verse during the worship service. This could either be prayed as a general request for the congregation, or incorporated into a specific prayer request for an individual or event.
  • Sing it during the worship service. The Fighter Verses have been set to music to make memorizing them easier. Incorporate these songs into your morning worship, both as a way to memorize and as a way to review. Learn more about Fighter Verses Songs.
  • If you have time in your service, have a pastor or elder introduce the verse for the coming week and spend a few minutes leading a short devotions time, explaining the verse or suggesting ways the verse can be applied.
  • Recite Bible passages from memory to the congregation during worship, prayer or the sermon to provide an example to the congregation of Bible memory.
  • Preach a sermon specifically on Bible memory at the start of the year or as a mid-year refresh to encourage people to keep memorizing.

Communicate It

  • Blog about it. Share testimonies about the how Bible memorization has helped people within the church, provide encouragement to persevere in memorizing, provide study or application tips for the verses or share tips on how to better memorize or review verses. Check the Memory Aids section on FighterVerses.com for ideas to get you started.
  • Share it. Post Fighter Verses on your church social media pages as a midweek encouragement. Follow Children Desiring God on Facebook or Instagram for the weekly Fighter Verses picture (feel free to share with your followers).
  • Post it. Include the current Fighter Verse on your church website each week.
  • Print it. Include the Fighter Verse for the week in the church bulletin or newsletter to remind people to memorize and keep everyone on the same schedule.
  • Listen. Set up a way for church members to share encouraging stories and testimonies about how God has been at work in the lives of his people through Bible memory.

Partner Together

  • Small groups are a perfect place to church members to study the verse together, apply it to their lives and provide accountability in memorizing. Small groups may want to consider going through The Fighter Verses Study together.
  • Ask Sunday school teachers to encourage students to memorize Scripture. Consider having the church set up incentives to reward children for memorizing verses.
  • Hold a kick-off event at the beginning of your Bible memory program or a mid-year refresh to get people excited about and equip them for Bible memorization. Ask for volunteers to share testimonies of how God has used Bible memory in their lives.
  • When applicable, use Fighter Verses as the text for the Sunday morning sermon, or the Wednesday evening teaching. This will not only help people understand the verse better, but also why it is important to memorize.

Being able to memorize and apply Scripture to our lives is no small accomplishment. Only God can give us the grace to long for His Word, hide it is our hearts, and use it in our lives. May God bless your church as you work together to memorize Scripture and fight the fight of faith.

Enhancing Your Child’s Classroom Experience

Enhancing Your Child's Classroom Experience

Over the years of teaching Sunday school, I’ve been on the receiving end of numerous comments and even some complaints from parents about their child’s classroom experience. Some of the complaints were very legitimate concerns identified by the parents that resulted in positive changes in the classroom. Others issues needed to be addressed primarily by the parents as they worked with their child on specific areas of their behavior. In my experience, one of the best ways to enhance the classroom experience for the children is to proactively clarify and understand expectations for teachers and classroom leaders, parents, and children.

For example, here are a few basic expectations for teachers and classroom leaders:

  • Provide a safe, welcoming, structured, age-appropriate environment for the students.
  • Provide well-prepared, theologically sound, faith-nurturing Bible lessons that are presented in an age-appropriate, interesting, and God-honoring manner.
  • Design a class structure that is attentive to the needs of the children while emphasizing and maximizing spiritual instruction.
  • Provide parents with written communication outlining class procedures and expectations, behavioral guidelines, contact information, curriculum notes, and other relevant information.
  • Extend to parents an open invitation to sit in and observe the classroom when so desired.
  • Recognize and affirm that parents bear the primary responsibility for nurturing their child’s faith. Teachers and other leaders will not seek to usurp that role.
  • Be open to making changes when necessary for the benefit of the students.
  • Speak directly to the parents when an issues arises with their child. Seek solutions that properly weigh the needs of the larger class and the specific child.

And here are a few expectations for parents:

  • Carefully communicate to your child his or her responsibilities when in the classroom and proper behavioral guidelines.
  • Pray for your child’s class.
  • Have your child prepared for class. This includes being on time, having him or her fed, making sure your child has used the bathroom, having the proper Bible, etc.
  • Show appropriate gratitude for the men and women who volunteer to minister to your child. Understanding that Sunday school is not a “right” but a gracious “privilege” for your child to enjoy.
  • Help your child understand the meaning and importance what is being taught in the classroom. If you take a deep interest in what is being taught, your children are more likely to take a deep interest, too (Using the CDG GIFT pages for each of our curricula lessons is a great tool to do this.)
  • Encourage your child to complete any assignments, memory work, and other action steps.
  • When your child expresses a concern (“I’m bored.” “The kids pick on me.” etc.) first speak to the teacher or small group leader. Get their perspective. Also consider sitting in and observing the class.
  • Understand the needs of the larger class, as well as the needs of your child. Don’t insist on unrealistic demands.
  • Pick your child up on time.

Although this is not an exhaustive list, in my experience these all serve to proactively address areas that commonly may lead to a direct, negative impact on a student’s classroom experience. By working together—parents and classroom volunteers—can help every student better love and enjoy his or her time in Sunday school.

 

Expectations for Teachers

Tips for Parents

 

Page 1 of 212»