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Encouraging Biblical Literacy in Children: Ages 6-8

Encouraging Biblical Literacy in Children

As children’s ministry leaders and teachers, one of our goals in the classroom should be to encourage and help children grow in their proficiency in reading and understanding the Bible. To that end, the methodology and tools we use are important. For example,

1. Teach precept upon precept by introducing specific Bible skills and concepts at appropriate ages

2. Teach in a way that encourages the children to be actively involved with the text

How might you do this when teaching a classroom of 1st– or 2nd-grade children? Here are a few practical suggestions for encouraging the first point:

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Vision-Driven Ministry

Vision-Driven Ministry

When I was first learning to drive, I made a typical mistake—I was constantly fixated on the road right in front of me…as in only a few feet in front of me. Now, if you are only planning on going a few feet, this works just fine. But if you are driving down a highway this “immediately-in-front-of-me” fixation can soon steer you right off the road. You need to set your eyes on a point or object in the distance, and then adjust your steering to that point. It makes all the difference!

Often in children’s ministry, we make this same kind of mistake. We become fixated with what is right in front of us: How many new Sunday school workers will we need to recruit for the fall? What programs will be available on Wednesday nights? Do we have special speakers lined up for missions week? What will be the focus of our Christmas program? This is not to say that these are unimportant questions. They need to be addressed. But, if these are the only things steering our ministry, a few years down the road we may find that our ministry feels aimless, or has gotten off course. (more…)

Do they See Jesus as Master and Lord?

Do they See You as Master and Lord?

Submission to authority is one of the primary disciplines that parents must teach their children. Even in submitting to the seemingly little commands of parents, children learn important truths that will better prepare them for a fulfilling and happy life. However, the main reason we should teach our children about submission is to help them understand the necessity of submitting to Jesus and His absolute, good, wise, and loving authority. Furthermore, we must teach and model that submission to Jesus and His ways does not quash our joy—it enables our joy.

As parents and teachers, we ought to be very careful and intentional in communicating this important concept to our children and students. As we rightfully impress upon them their need for Jesus’ redeeming work—trusting in Him alone as Savior—we must not neglect to also highlight Jesus as Master and Lord. All who truly trust in Jesus are called to learn from Him, submit to Him, and follow in all His ways. This is a life-long endeavor for the Christian. It is a call to grace-dependent, Spirit-empowered discipleship.

Getting Practical—Here are a few texts to read and discuss, and questions to ask your children: (more…)

Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful Heart

Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful Heart

Pastor David Michael recently shared these words from C.H. Spurgeon during Children Desiring God staff devotion time. I wonder what impact it would have on our parenting and teaching ministries if we carefully reflected on Spurgeon’s remarks and questions regarding Psalm 103:2—“Forget not all his benefits.”

It is a delightful and profitable occupation to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints, and to observe

his goodness in delivering them,
his mercy in pardoning them,
and his faithfulness in keeping his covenant with them.

But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to remark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least

as full of God,
as full of his goodness and of his truth,
as much a proof of his faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before? (more…)

Passing the Baton in the Midst of a Hostile Crowd

Passing the Baton in the Midst of a Hostile Crowd

Parents and ministry leaders, here is something to ponder:

Passing on the [Christian] faith has been compared to handing off a baton in a relay race. And there are many things to commend that analogy to us. There is a real gospel—the baton—to pass on. It must be passed on individually. The one with the baton has to hold it out, and the one receiving the baton has to reach back for it and close his hand around it. There is a time to pass on the baton, the exchange zone, which does not last forever. All of these are excellent pictures to help us think through this subject.

There is a problem with this illustration, however. We are not handing off the baton at a friendly track meet—rather this exchange takes place on a battlefield! We are attempting to pass on this baton of the gospel while we and our children are being shot at! And what about those observing in the stands? A few are cheering us on, but many in the stands—the world—are laughing at our child’s attempt to run the race. (more…)

Teaching Our Children to Serve God in the “Ordinary”

Teaching Our Children to Serve God in the Ordinary

I grew up with a very narrow view of what it means to serve God. Life was separated into two main spheres—the spiritual and the secular. Service to God was therefore limited to using ones gifts and abilities within the church or a specific type of Christian ministry—the “spiritual realm.” Then, as I entered adulthood, there was an additional thrust, namely, that to be a faithful Christian one must do great things for God and go out and change the world for Christ. Sounds like a wonderful challenge to pass on to our children and students, doesn’t it…

Now consider this from Pastor Nick Batzig:

A “change the world” mentality often ironically serves as a catalyst for discontentment or undue guilt. The common failures and frustrations experienced in the mundane day-in and day-out aspects of life tend to leave those—who had hoped for more importance—jaded or callused as the years progress… 

Will of God Doer…The reality is that there was only one true and lasting world changer; and, He had to be mocked by men, nailed to the cross, subject to the powers of hell and fall under the wrath of God in order to bring about permanent and lasting change in the world. Whenever we are tempted to want to “think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think,” we must remember that the way up is the way down, that he who would be greatest must become least and that the way to the crown is the way of the cross. We must seek to become a “will of God doer” rather than a “world changer”—even if that means changing dirty diapers for the glory of God.  (more…)

Teaching Means Active Engagement

Teaching Means Active Engagement

In college, I had to take a dreaded year of physics. I cringed at the thought of it! But much to my amazement, I ended up enjoying that year. It became one of my favorite classes. Why the change of heart? Because I had a great teacher who actively engaged us in the subject matter. He had us thinking, questioning, and seeing the relevance of physics to almost every aspect of life: Content + Teaching Style…both mattered.

I recently read a Bible lesson written for older elementary students. What was disheartening is not the content per se—it was biblically accurate and theologically sound—but the manner in which it was communicated to the students. The material was simply “presented.” The students were “talked at.” They were not encouraged in any meaningful way to engage with the text (or even open their Bibles), or with the teacher. Why is this a problem? Because, among other things… (more…)

Preemptive Wisdom + Drawing for a Free Devotional!

Preemptive Wisdom

In a recent “Ask Pastor John” post, John Piper addressed a question from a young man—a teenager— regarding his desire to be well-liked and popular while, at the same time, being concerned about being godly. Here was part of John’s response:

Preemptive WisdomI think being driven by coolness is deadly. The problem with wanting to be cool in our culture is that cool is almost always defined by the fool. So, it is almost always: Cool = Fool.

If you want to know what a fool is, read the book of Proverbs in the Bible. In fact, I think every teenager, especially boys, should read Proverbs over and over and over again, because of how clearly the Proverbs expose the stupidity of much that is considered cool… (more…)

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? (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: (more…)

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