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The Key to Effective Ministry to Children and Youth

Late summer is a busy time for children’s and youth ministry as church staff and volunteers gear up for the beginning of a new school year. And, increasingly, there are new and exciting resource options out there to consider—resources that claim to engage students in ways that are “relevant” to their particular age group, along with teaching methods and class resources that will keep students eagerly coming back week after week. There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily.

Wanting your ministry and materials to be engaging and magnetic is understandable. But holding students’ attention should be the result, not the goal, of what you’re teaching.

In “Recovering the Priority of Personal Holiness,” Alistair Begg issued a challenge that applies to the popular notion that Sunday School should be primarily about giving kids fun things to do so they’ll be excited to come back.

…Let’s consider whether we have allowed contemporary culture to infiltrate our minds and hearts. Have we inverted Christ’s desire that the church be in the world by bringing the world into the church instead? If we take an honest look, perhaps we’ll discover that we are contributing to this trend. Rather than relying solely on the sufficiency of God’s Word, are we employing counselors in our churches who apply worldly methods of psychological analysis to address felt needs? Have we adopted worldly means to reach the seekers [or possibly some teens you know] who sit skeptically in the back pews rather than offering them the truths of the Gospel and the Christian life? Faithful teaching of God’s Word is vanishing. Are we among the number that have replaced preaching with elaborate drama productions aimed at entertaining?

Begg cites Puritan pastor John Owen who wrote, “If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us” (The Works of John Owen, vol. 16, page 76). Begg says, “…what gave John Owen success in ministry was not so much his oratory skill, nor his evangelistic zeal, nor even his love for the people he shepherded. John Owen was used mightily by God in all these ways because he was a man characterized by personal holiness.” He writes,

…Rather than devoting much time to developing innovative amusements for the worship hour, Owen made private communion with God a top priority…The Word of God is the means employed by the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ, so if preaching and evangelism are to be effective, private communion with God in His Word must be more important than discovering the latest ministry technique.

Begg’s excellent article challenged me, as a teacher, to ask myself, How do I prepare for the upcoming Sunday school hour?

  • Do I prioritize private communion with God over and above time spent developing innovative amusements for the Sunday school hour?
  • Do I meditate on the Word of God as the means the Holy Spirit employs to transform me into the image of Christ?

It is only through God’s transforming work that our teaching will flow out of personal holiness. And such is the teaching that will penetrate the hearts of young sinners in need of grace; something no ministry technique can ever do.

It is the power of God’s Word, not a popular curriculum or new-fangled teaching approach, that will change the hearts of your students. What might God be pleased to do this coming year if we were to recover the priority of personal holiness in our ministry to children and youth?

Does Every Lesson Need to be a “Jesus and the Cross” Lesson?

Much has been said in recent years about teaching the Old Testament from a distinctly Christian perspective — seeing  Jesus and the Gospel in all of Scripture. But in this video, John Piper raises an important concern about turning this perspective into a type of simplistic interpretative formula. He says,

… the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.

I believe Pastor John’s concern needs thoughtful consideration. I fully share his appreciation for the renewal of Gospel-focused preaching and teaching in the church. As a Sunday school teacher and parent, I experienced firsthand the gospel-less, deadly moralism that characterized so much of children’s Bible curriculum. But with this wonderful renewed focus on Christ and the Gospel, comes a new pitfall we need to avoid when teaching children.

Piper’s example of Elisha and Naaman serves as an excellent example. We need to give our children and students the proper Bible study tools so that they can dig deep into the text — mining it for its treasures. This takes time. It takes step-by-step training. But by doing so, we are giving our children a priceless gift; a gift that will serve them for a lifetime and will provide a wonderfully rich foundation for making them wise for salvation through faith in Christ.

At Truth78, we structure our lessons to foster these essential Bible study tools. We slowly and carefully lead children to discover the meaning of the text — asking questions, looking at context, drawing conclusions, etc. Once we’ve done that, we then point the students toward Christian application. In a lesson on Elisha and Naaman we might ask:  What does this story tell us about God’s character? What do we learn about man’s heart? How does the text apply to your own heart and life? Do you ever have a proud spirit? What does this look like? Is this pleasing to God? Why not? Has God provided us with an even greater blessing than physical healing? What is it? What does God call us to do in order to receive salvation through Jesus? etc.

This approach is more time-consuming in the classroom. And it requires teachers and parents to take the long view: We’re introducing children to the God of the Bible — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We’re helping build a solid Gospel foundation beneath them. We’re helping them learn to mine the immeasurable riches of the Word of God for a lifetime. We’re doing this because we want them to be able to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

We may not be making a beeline to Jesus and the cross in every lesson, but we are diligently training children as we acquaint them with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

As we teach the whole Bible, we pray the children in our classrooms and in our family rooms will be made wise for salvation so that they may, like Timothy, be faithful to continue in faith.

——————— 

To learn more about our approach to teaching the whole Bible, please see these resource:

The Theological and Philosophical Foundations of Truth78 Teaching Resources

The Great Story and the Single Verse by John Piper

Jesus in Every Old Testament Passage? Parts 1 and 2 (The author discusses the merits and cautions of a “Christ-in-every-passage” approach to studying and teaching the Old Testament.)


Video Transcript (lightly edited)

You asked whether every lesson needs to be a Jesus lesson. Like if you’re in the Old Testament with Elisha, does it always have to go to the cross? That was the gist of the question. And it’s the same with preaching. I just wrote a book on preaching and I’m concerned about this. The Gospel Coalition is evidence of a renewal of gospel focus in the church and a lot of pastors think you’ve got to get to the gospel even if you’re preaching on tithing or something. I would say the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.

Let me give me give a quick illustration right off my front burners. I’m reading through the Bible, and this morning I’m reading in 2nd Kings 4 and 5, the story of Elisha and the leper Naaman, and Gehazi. Here’s the gist of the story. This little servant girl says, “You should go to Israel and get the Prophet Elisha to heal you from your leprosy, Naaman.” And he goes to his king [of Syria], and the king writes a letter to the king [of Israel], and sends Naaman, and the king [of Israel] says, “I’m not God that I can heal this leprosy” – which  gives you a clue what the story is about – and Elisha hears that, and he goes to the king and says, “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel.”

Now that’s the point of the story: “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel. Tell him to come to me.” He goes to him; Elisha won’t even go out the door. He sends a messenger out to tell this big shot from Syria, “Go wash in the Jordan, see you later.” This guy’s ticked and he will not go. Now I think we ought to teach kids “pride keeps you from getting blessings.” I think that’s in the text and intentional, because his sidekicks argue, “Look, he’s asking you just a little simple thing. Would you just humble yourself and do it?” And when he comes up out of the water, it says his skin is like the skin of a child. This is about childlikeness receiving blessings from God.

So that’s lesson one that you might miss if you say, “He got washed in the Jordan from leprosy; Jesus will wash you from a worse disease,” end of lesson. Not a good way to end the lesson and miss all the points.

Here’s the second point: As soon as he sees he’s clean, Elijah says, “I’m not taking any money for this. We don’t sell good news here.” Now you’re going to talk about gospel preachers on television with these kids, ok? “We don’t sell we don’t sell the gospel. I’m not taking anything from you — you go back and worship the true God.” Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, says, “that’s crazy,” and he runs after him and says, “My master said he did, by the way, want some clothing and some of your silver.” And he says, “Oh sure, give it to him.” And when he goes back, Elisha says to him, “Did you think this was a time for getting silver and clothing?” And Gehazi had leprosy for the rest of his life.

Greed. Greed and pride. The story is about greed and pride. And if we run to the cross from the dipping in the river, before we see the point of the story, and tell these kids, “You’ve got to be childlike, you’ve got to be humble, if you’re gonna know God, you’ve got to not love money, and if you know preachers who preach for money, they’re not real preachers.” You’ve got to say that. Now when you’re done you can say – I mean the three songs you sang at the beginning of  Sunday school might have been all about Jesus. That may be all you need. We’re about Jesus every weekend in this room. Nothing comes to you but with Jesus – if you say, “How do you become humble? How do you become free from greed?” Then you dig into sanctification, and the cross, and the blood, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the glory of the Father.

So my caution with that movement, in preaching on Sunday morning, and in teaching kids is – there’s a real good impulse behind it because we’re not mere Jews and we’re not mere Muslims, therefore we shouldn’t read our Old Testaments and interpret them in a way that a Muslim and a Jew would be happy with our interpretation. Which means we’ve got to be Christian. And so you do get there. But how you get there – please, don’t miss the awesomeness of Deuteronomy or 2nd Kings.

 

Should Children Be Taught the Wrath of God?

Truth78 had the privilege of having a Q & A session with John Piper at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in June. One question he answered dealt with Truth78’s first grade curriculum, The ABC’s of God. That curriculum features a lesson on God’s wrath. Listen to the specific question and Pastor John’s answer:

So yes, we must teach children about the wrath of God. They need to be taught early on that God is very angry at sin, and is right to punish sinners. Every one of us deserves God’s wrath. This is an essential gospel issue. But it is also extremely important that we consider how we teach children about God’s wrath. There is an age-appropriateness in how we explain it and the tone in which we use. Furthermore, God’s wrath should be taught within the context of His other divine attributes.

For example, in The ABC’s of God curriculum, here are some attributes of God that children are taught before the lesson on His wrath,

Eternal, Creator, glorious, wise, almighty, sovereign, provider, self-sufficient, understanding, attentive, faithful, happy, love, omnipresent, refuge, unchanging, omniscient, good, jealous, righteous

And in the lessons that follow, they are taught that God is patient and merciful and sent His Son into the world to deliver His people from His wrath. You can view the lesson on God’s wrath here.

For further reference, here are some previous articles we’ve written on this important topic:

What Our Children Need to Know about God’s Wrath

Are There Threats to the Gospel in Our Classroom?
The Gospel Alphabet Series:

The One Thing I’d Change in My Parenting


If I could change just one thing in my parenting, it would be this: I would have prayed more specific and focused prayers for myself, my husband, and our children. What do I mean by specific and focused? Gregory Harris, pastor and Bible professor at Master’s Seminary explains it well in his helpful article, “I Pray This for My Children.” He says,

As with most items related to discipleship—and parenting is definitely a God-ordained and commanded aspect of discipleship (Ephesians  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 (Proverbs 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 [was] 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.

We would stand on the sidelines and actively watch as our children walked with God, or, in one case, did not walk with Him for a prolonged period. I have been both the Prodigal Son and the father of a prodigal—and by the sheer grace of God—I have been the rejoicing father of a prodigal who has returned to the Lord.

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

“How should I pray for my children?”

The rest of Harris’s article details prayers in categories from prayers for salvation and running from sin; to personal interactions, spiritual growth, and future spouses. To read the full list, go here.

For a verse-by-verse guide to praying the Scriptures for your children, grandchildren, and the children in your church, see Sally Michael’s “Praying for the Next Generation” booklet, as well as Bud Burk’s “Utter Dependency on God, Through Prayer,” a practical guide for leading children in prayer in the classroom, as well as the living room.

Help for Turbulent Teens

It’s a problem that affects millions of teenagers; likely someone you know in your own church or family. What is it? Interior angst. Loneliness. Depression. Fear. Despair. All these and more are part of the emotional roller coaster that goes with the changes and development of adolescence.

This is an age-old problem that should lead to maturity and growth. But teens today are missing key supports that made it less volatile for generations past. So says Dr. Albert Mohler in his commentary last week on a report released by the Centers for Disease Control,

The biggest alarm here has to do with the interior lives of America teenagers . …Words such as fear and despair among American teenagers should grab our attention in a hurry. The official behind the report, Dr. Jonathan Merman of the CDC, gave the bottom line in the research with remarkable clarity. He said, “An adolescent’s world can be bleak.”

…We cannot possibly redefine adolescence so that teenagers not undergo stress and strain and also both happiness and pain. … but what we can do is make certain that they never endure an experience, these trials and passages of life alone, or without the support of parents, or without their family, or without the support of the church…

To one degree or another, in any given situation, young people give evidence of a wide array of emotions: loneliness, love, sorrow, shame, regret, discouragement, gladness, awe, anger, fear, zeal, confidence, delight, pain, and praise. Too often however, these emotions are left unshaped by the reality of God and His Word. In fact, our culture encourages it: Young people are told to “follow your heart” (i.e. your subjective feelings), they are given self-esteem pep talks to alleviate shame, they are encouraged to set their delight in fleeting pleasures, they are told that they are the measure of themselves. All of this is destructive to their souls.

Instead, their feelings need to come under submission to God and His Word. Their feelings need to find their way to their Creator as they pour out their hearts to Him, humbly longing for His life-giving mercy. This is the path to everlasting joy, as well as the way to walk in it.

 In his sermon, Songs That Shape the Heart and Mind—Psalms: Thinking and Feeling with God,”, John Piper said,

One of the reasons the Psalms are deeply loved by so many Christians is that they give expression to an amazing array of emotions…

More explicitly than all the other books in the Bible, the Psalms are designed to awaken and shape our emotions in line with the instruction they give. What happens when you read and sing the Psalms the way they are intended to be read and sung is that your emotions and your mind are shaped by these psalms.

Parents and teachers have a vital opportunity and responsibility to introduce teens to the Psalms so that they might experience the Psalms’ heart- and mind-shaping power. Truth78 has developed a new curriculum for this potentially turbulent season to help churches take their teens to God’s Word, the only place where true hope and help is found. We are excited to introduce our new youth curriculum, “Pour Out Your Heart Before Him—A Study for Youth on Prayer and Praise in the Psalms,” by Sally Michael.

She writes in the preface to the study,

Though God is the Supreme Ruler of the universe, He also dwells with His people in close, intimate fellowship. What we discover through walking in relationship with God through Christ is that He understands every emotion of the human experience, so we can freely pour out our hearts to Him. He will, with Shepherd-like love, comfort and calm our troubled hearts.

The Book of Psalms was written under God’s hand by real people with real problems, who knew that the way to true soul satisfaction comes through pouring out their hearts before God, lifting their eyes to Yahweh, and opening their mouths in praise to Him. The Psalms not only reflect Israel’s story, but our story as well as we walk in a new covenant relationship with the God of Israel.

Not only does God understand every human emotion, but He also resolves every human emotion through His presence and character, making Him worthy of our heartfelt adoration and praise. He turns worry to peace, despair to hope, distress to deliverance, weariness to praise, brokenness to forgiveness, envy to contentment, and anger to justice.

The Psalms lead us to trust in the triune God, the Creator, the unchanging Source of Truth, rather than the worthless idols of the human heart. This is a God we can praise from generation to generation, as we delight in His testimonies and rest in His shepherd-care.

Pour Our Your Heart Before Him is a faithful guide for the season of change and growth that faces every teen. Whatever emotions your youth are juggling, the Psalms are a haven they can run to. Learn more about our new curriculum.

 

28 Promises Your Children Can Stand On

One hymn I learned early on was Standing On the Promises by R. Kelso Carter. The hymn included these memorable and reassuring words:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Though I had the words and tune memorized, I don’t remember anyone actually describing and explaining what these promises were. What was I supposed to be standing on?

Here are 28 promises found in the Bible—all given by a faithful God who ALWAYS keeps His promises—that our children should know and can depend upon:

God promises:

  • salvation for everyone who truly repents and believes in Jesus.
  • eternal punishment (hell) for everyone who does not repent and believe in Jesus. (Yes, our children need to know that some promises are dreadful!)

For God’s children, those who trust in Jesus, God’s promises include:

  • God will be with you everywhere, at all times, watching over your life.
  • nothing can separate you from God’s love.
  • complete forgiveness when you confess your sins.
  • God will complete His work in you, making you more and more like Jesus.
  • you will bear fruit (good works).
  • God will hear your prayers.
  • He will guide you to know what is right.
  • God will provide for your needs.
  • He will not withhold any good thing that is good for your life.
  • God will fight for you and act on your behalf.
  • He is slow to anger and is patient with you.
  • God will give you strength.
  • though you may stumble, God will sustain and hold you.
  • God will discipline you for your good because He loves you.
  • He plans good for you, and He brings new mercies every day.
  • God will be with you in hard times.
  • He will not bring any unnecessary suffering into your life.
  • If you remain steadfast under trial, you will be rewarded.
  • God will keep you from ultimate harm and guard your soul and faith.
  • He will deliver you from all your troubles.
  • God will end suffering for His children and turn it to joy.
  • All things will work together for your good.
  • God will never forsake you.
  • He will never forget His promises.
  • God is not slow in keeping His promises—His timing is perfect.
  • eternal life—living forever with Jesus!

We have developed two resources to help your children learn and explore these promises in the Bible, as well as how the promises are meant to be embraced and applied to our lives.

Curriculum:

Faithful to All His Promises: A Study for Children on the Promises of God
Grade Range: 2nd Grade-4th Grade, 40 lessons
Children will not simply learn about some of God’s promises, but rather, they will discover what it means to trust in those promises, which are God’s gift to us, not something we deserve. Faithful to All His Promises begins by teaching children what a promise is, what makes God trustworthy with these promises, and who these promises are for. Then children get to explore some specific promises from God to see how He has been and will be faithful to each of those promises.

Family devotional book:

CPGPGod’s Promises
This book is adapted from the curriculum and is a read-aloud and read-along book for parents with early elementary-age children. Each chapter ends with personal application and activities, and includes full-color illustrations. (120 pages)

Teachers: Is This Book on Your Summer Reading List?

Summer is an ideal time for reading to refresh and energize the soul. For anyone who teaches children and youth it’s also an opportunity to become a better teacher. At only 152 pages, Teaching to Change Lives: Seven Proven Ways to Make Your Teaching Come Alive  by Dr. Howard Hendricks is filled with practical, biblical, seasoned wisdom that is helpful for both new and experienced teachers alike. At Truth78, we highly recommend this book. Our curricula’s teaching philosophy and methodology closely mirrors the principles found in his book.

Here is a brief summary of the seven principles, or “laws” Dr. Hendricks describes followed by examples of how Truth78 curricula implements each:

The Law of the Teacher— If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow…You cannot communicate out of a vacuum. You cannot impart what you do not possess. If you don’t know it—truly know it—you can’t give it.

Truth78 encourages teachers to take time to prayerfully study each lesson and make your own personal application.

The Law of Education—How people learn determines how you teach.

Truth78 incorporates a teaching philosophy, methodology, and format that is age-appropriate, interactive, and teacher friendly.

The Law of Activity—Maximum learning is always the result of maximum involvement. That’s true, with one condition. The activity in which the learner is involved must be meaningful.

Truth78 encourages students to interact, first and foremost, with the text of Scripture: questioning, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, drawing conclusions, and applying God’s Word. Interactive illustrations and other activities are also used to help students better grasp biblical truth.

The Law of Communication—To truly impart information requires the building of bridges. All communication has three essential components: intellect, emotion, and volitionin other words, thought, feeling, and action. If I know something thoroughly, feel it deeply, and am doing it consistently, I have great potential for being an excellent communicator.

Each lesson of our curricula includes material that serves to instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will.

The Law of the Heart—Teaching that impacts is not head to head, but heart to heart. To the Hebrews, heart embraced the totality of human personality—one’s intellect, one’s emotions, one’s will. Teaching happens when one total personality, transformed by the supernatural grace of God, reaches out to transform another personality by the same grace.

Each lesson includes a significant “Small Group Application” section to encourage and challenge students to personally embrace and apply God’s truth to their lives. Spirit-dependent prayer with and for the students is an essential aspect of this time.

The Law of Encouragement—Teaching tends to be more effective when the learner is motivated to learn. As a teacher—a motivator—you want to help people develop into self-starters. You want them to do what they do, not because you ask them or twist their arm, but because they themselves have chosen to do it. One of the best ways to trigger this choice is to help the learner become aware of his need.

Our lessons are written to fuel spiritual desire by giving students a big vision of the greatness of God and His all-surpassing worth. We continually point students to see that eternal, all-satisfying joy is found in God alone, through faith in Christ.

The Law of Readiness—The teaching-learning process will be most effective when both student and teacher are adequately prepared.

Truth78 provides curricula components and other training to help teachers prepare for the lesson. Additionally, we include practical resources and ideas for helping students in preparation for the lesson material.

These descriptions are too brief to do justice to his main points and practical applications. I urge you to read the whole book. And if you’re a ministry leader, consider buying several copies this summer to pass on to your teachers and small group leaders. It is a wonderful training resource.

 

No More Gaps: Giving Children the Whole Counsel of God

It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized I had huge gaps in my theological education. I had had minimal exposure to the entire content of Scripture and a very limited grasp of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Some doctrines were minimized, skewed, or missing entirely. Although a believer for 10 years, I was very immature and this immaturity tainted every aspect of my daily life, including my marriage and parenting. Theological gaps make a big difference in how we will think, feel, speak, and live!

At Truth78 we are earnestly and deeply committed to giving our children and students a theological education that equips them to become mature disciples of Jesus. We believe that involves acquainting them with both the breadth and depth of Scripture—teaching them the whole counsel of God.

In Acts 20:27 Paul writes, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

D. A. Carson makes the following observation about this text,

What [Paul] must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively.

[Paul’s teaching] embraced:

  • God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
  • an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope),
  • the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
  • the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).[1]

Acquainting children and students with the Scriptures in this manner will involve exposing them to the actual content of Scripture while also emphasizing a core set of essential truths (doctrines) regarding the Christian faith. In conjunction with this there must be a focus on a call to personally respond to those truths (relational). Both are important so we must stress both the doctrinal and relational aspects of the Christian life. Our teaching resources are designed to emphasize and carefully balance these two.

One way to evaluate whether or not we are teaching our children and students the whole counsel of God is to see if they can answer these crucial questions, with increasing biblical depth, as they grow and mature:

  • What is in the Bible? Who is the Bible about?
  • What is the main message of the Bible?
  • What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?
  • Why do we need to be saved? How are we saved?
  • How are we to live?

We have identified and incorporated the following five elements (theological disciplines) into our curricula scope and sequence and other teaching resources. We believe that these five elements, interspersed at different ages and emphasized to varying degrees throughout these ages, comprise an appropriate breadth and depth of Scripture needed for teaching the whole counsel of God.

  1. Bible Survey—a chronological overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In our curricula this is first introduced in the preschool years, by a story-based presentation that introduces children to the key people, places, events, and themes of the Bible. Most importantly, it emphasizes God as the Author and main character of the Bible. This provides children with a fundamental biblical foundation upon which the other elements will be built. Addresses: What’s in the Bible? Who is the Bible about?
  1. Biblical Theology—introduces students to the main storyline of Scripture, whereby God progressively reveals His redemptive purposes, which come to their complete fulfillment in the person and work of Christ, for the glory of God. Students are taught to see that the Bible’s many diverse stories, written over time, all serve to communicate one main unified message. Addresses: What’s the main message of the Bible?
  1. Systematic Theology—a topical approach in teaching the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. Systematic theology presents the Bible’s teaching on various subjects, one at a time, and summarizes each topic based on the entirety of Scripture. Addresses: What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?
  1. Gospel Proclamation—an explicit and comprehensive presentation of the essential truths of the Gospel, leading to a clear understanding to the person and work of Christ and what it means to respond in true repentance and belief. Addresses: Why do we need to be saved? How are we saved?
  1. Moral and Ethical Instruction—acquainting students with the nature, role, and importance of God’s laws and commands, the wisdom literature, and the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This instruction is necessary for understanding God’s character and standards and our need for the Gospel, and for guiding believers in righteous and godly conduct. Addresses: How are we to live?

For further reading on the importance of teaching the next generation the whole counsel of God, I highly recommend two chapters from our book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, “Declaring the Whole Counsel of God—What’s at stake for our children” by Mark Vroegop and “The Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God—From grand story to grammar, it all matters” by Bruce Ware.

You can also watch their corresponding presentations from our 2016 National Conference here and here.

[1] Preach The Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 177-178.

True Faith Takes Mind, Heart, and Will

As a parent and teacher I find these words from Jesus especially sobering,

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me… (Matthew 15:8-9)

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:26-27)

We can teach our children and students a lot of biblical information–and so we should. We should acquaint them with as much Scripture as possible; it is the only means of making them wise for salvation in Christ and living in a way that is pleasing to Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We want their minds to know, understand, and be able to rightly interpret the Bible. However, as Jesus’ words remind us, it is not enough to simply receive knowledge about God. The child who has memorized the most Bible verses in your class, or is always first to find a passage in the Bible, may have a heart far from the Lord. Genuine faith in Christ also involves the heart and will. To leave these unaddressed in our teaching is dangerous–eternally dangerous.

That is why we at Truth78 create resources that aim to instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will. Instruct, engage, and influence–words chosen carefully to define our responsibility while humbling admitting our complete dependence on God to renew the mind, transform the heart, and empower the will of the children and students in our care.

Watch this informative and inspiring 12 minute video in which David and Sally Michael explain the role of the mind, heart, and will in the faith of the next generations. They also give practical examples from their teaching experience of how you can encourage these three aspects of faith in the lives of children.

A Vision for Encouraging Faith in Christ in the Next Generation 

 

12 Reasons to Choose Truth78 Curriculum

After an unusually long, cold winter, it’s finally summer! But churches are already thinking ahead to the fall. What will they teach the students next year; the current curriculum or something new? There are many varied reasons for choosing one curricula over another. Here are 12 reasons why you should consider teaching the Truth78 curricula:

  1. Vision-Oriented—our philosophy, methodology, scope and sequence, and lesson content all are aiming toward one main goal: That our students may know, honor, and treasure God, setting their hope in Christ alone, so that they will live as faithful disciples for the glory of God. (Download our Truth78 Viewbook for a more thorough introduction to our vision, mission, and curricula.)
  2. Whole Gospel-focused—Our hope and prayer is that every student will come to salvation in Christ and live as faithful disciples. Therefore, we believe that great care must be exercised in communicating the Gospel. Our students need the whole, rich foundation of the Gospel taught to them. A foundation which honors and exalts Christ by inspiring love, trust, obedience, and worship of Him as the essence, means, and goal of the Gospel is explained precept-by-percept. While each curriculum, as a whole, presents the Gospel message, not every lesson presents an “explicit” Gospel summary.
  3. Written by teachers, within the classroom setting—Sometimes a lesson looks great on paper but teaching it in a classroom with a live audience of students can be a very different experience. Our lessons have been developed and taught in the classroom and have been reviewed by other teachers and small group leaders before being published.
  4. Encourages both teacher and students to study the Bible—We place a very high premium on biblical literacy. Therefore, as soon as children are able to read, we believe they are ready to interact with the text of Scripture, using their own Bibles. Our curriculum helps teachers guide students in developing essential Bible study skills.
  5. Nourishes teachers—It’s hard to teach something that hasn’t enriched you first. Though our lessons are written for children and youth at age-appropriate levels, they are meaty with theological truths. This isn’t because we are especially clever, but because the lessons focus on revealing and explaining the Word of God. The Word provides teachers with spiritual food as they meditate on the lesson throughout the week while preparing to teach.
  6. Trains children and youth to thinkIt’s one thing to give children information to recall. It’s entirely different to engage their minds in critical thinking – the kind of thinking that prepares them to truly understand, embrace, live out, and defend the Christian faith for a life-time. Our interactive teaching style (asking questions, posing scenarios, etc.) helps train students to think critically and biblically.
  7. Aims for heart transformation—The mind is a conduit to the heart from which springs genuine faith and love for Christ. Too often children’s and youth curricula fail to engage the heart in any deep and meaningful way. Our curriculum has been designed to spend a significant time engaging students’ hearts in responding to God’s truth. While it is only by God’s sovereign grace that true heart transformation happens, we give teachers a variety of suggestions for leading discussions that prod students to sincerely and personally respond to God’s truth.
  8. Serious joy—We would never use the word “fun” as one of our curriculum distinctives. However, we offer something better than fun: Serious joy. We study the most important truths in the universe: The truth of God in the Word of God. God is holy and so is His Word. That’s why there is a certain demeanor and serious tone to our lesson content and format. But that doesn’t mean that the lessons are dry and boring. Our God is NOT boring. Therefore, when appropriate, there is plenty of room for creativity, laughter, excitement, colorful imagery, loudness, etc. But it’s all meant to point toward the majestic and awesome glory of God, where we find true, lasting, all-satisfying joy.
  9. Great customer service—Switching to a new curriculum can be a daunting task. There are a variety of issues to address and “one size fits all” in children’s and youth ministry. Truth78 is blessed to have an experienced team of people who have decades of experience in classroom ministry with our curriculum. They love serving people and finding answers to your questions and solutions to your concerns.
  10. Keeping the main thing the main thing—Unfortunately, for an increasing number of children, the Sunday school hour is one of the few times during their week that they receive formal Bible instruction. We want to use that limited time in order to focus on the main thing: Making them wise for salvation in Christ by acquainting them with the Scriptures. Therefore, our curriculum maximizes spiritual instruction and makes other activities secondary.
  11. Theological balance over the course of the entire scope and sequence—If our students are to be taught the whole counsel of God, they need to see and understand the Bible through a variety of disciplines: Bible survey, biblical theology, systematic theology, moral and ethical teaching, and an explicit Gospel presentation. Our scope and sequence has been carefully designed to introduce these disciplines in balance, not neglecting one for another. All serve in helping children and youth develop a robust faith.
  12. Gives parents “meat” to feed their children—Each lesson is accompanied by a GIFT (Growing In Faith Together) page. Not only do they give parents a summary of the lesson, they also give various ideas for follow-up discussion, helping parents discern their child’s spiritual condition and encourage faith in Christ and loving obedience to His Word.

 

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