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Feeding All the Little Lambs

Leading All the Little Lambs

At Children Desiring God we strongly believe that God has ordained parents as the primary teachers and disciplers of their children. It is a sacred responsibility and privilege. All the many wonderful Sunday school classes and other children’s and youth programs in your church are no substitute for your calling to nurture the faith of your children. Consider these words from Charles Spurgeon:

Let no Christian parents fall into the delusion that the Sunday school is intended to ease them of their personal duties. The first and most natural condition of things is for Christian parents to train up their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Let holy grandmothers and gracious mothers, with their husbands see to it that their own boys and girls are well taught in the book of the Lord.

But…

  • what about the children who come to your church who do not have believing parents?
  • what about children who are receiving a minimal amount of spiritual nourishment in their homes due to a variety of factors?
  • what about children who live in a one-parent home—and that parent is doing the best he or she can but is overwhelmed with simply holding things together?

Even in Spurgeon’s day these were realities, and he does not neglect to address this with great tenderness and earnestness.

Where there are no such Christian parents, it is well and wisely done for godly people to intervene. It is a Christly work when others undertake the duty which the natural doers of it have left undone. The Lord Jesus looks with pleasure upon those who feed His lambs, and nurse His babes, for it is not His will that any of these little ones should perish. Timothy had the great privilege of being taught by those whose natural duty it is, but where that great privilege cannot be enjoyed, let us all, as God shall help us, try to make up to the children the terrible loss which they endure. Come forward, earnest men and women, and sanctify yourselves for this joyful service.

(from a sermon titled, “The Sunday School and the Scriptures, No.1866,”
found at www.spurgeongems.org)

 Getting Practical

Check out our one-page guide, “Ministering to Children from Non-Christian Homes for some practical steps that can be implemented in the classroom setting.

Leading All the Little Lambs

Mothers as Disciplers of the Next Generation

Mothers as Disciplers of the Next Generation

Watching my daughter at home full time with four children, 5 years old and younger, is to watch a type of loving, synchronized chaos with moments of structured instruction thrown in. Here is a college-educated woman, who once worked with thoughtful adults, now deal with cute, but often unreasonable, little people. Yet through it all, she has fully and joyfully embraced this calling, knowing that it is a sacred calling to nurture the faith of the next generation. Mothers, listen to these encouraging words from Charles Spurgeon:

Charles Spurgeon QuoteO dear mothers you have a very sacred trust reposed in you by God! He has in effect said to you, “Take this child and nurse it for Me, and I will give you your wages.” You are called to equip the future man of God that he may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If God spares you, you may live to hear that pretty boy speak to thousands, and you will have the sweet reflection in your heart that the quiet teachings of the nursery led the man to love his God and serve Him. Those who think that a woman detained at home by her little family is doing nothing, think the reverse of what is true. Scarcely can the godly mother quit her home for a place of worship, but dream not that she is lost to the work of the church, far from it, she is doing the best possible service for her Lord. Mothers, the godly training of your offspring is your first and most pressing duty. Christian women, by teaching children the Holy Scriptures, are as much fulfilling their part for the Lord, as Moses in judging Israel, or Solomon in building the Temple.

( Sermon #1866, “The Sunday School and the Scriptures,” www.spurgeongems.org)

Mothering Booklet CoverDo you know a busy mom who needs some encouragement as she seeks to nurture the faith of her children? Here is a resource to consider, Mothers: Disciplers of the Next Generations. This affordable booklet, written by Sally Michael, will challenge moms to look on their mothering with a biblical perspective, to seize the opportunities God gives them each day to encourage faith in their children, and to rely on Him as their sin-bearer and enabler to do the great work He has called moms to do.

Sharing the Gospel with Your Children

Sharing the Gospel with Your Children

When my husband and I were young Christian parents, we instinctively knew the importance and responsibility of sharing the Gospel with our children. But, as good as our intentions were, and as heart-felt as our longings and prayers were for them to come to saving faith, I think we sometimes sent a confusing message to their young ears. In part, this was because we ourselves were somewhat immature in our understanding of the essential truths of the Gospel. Having come to saving faith in the popular “born again” era of the 1970s, we were steeped in an easy-believe-ism that did not rightly reflect the rich beauty  and grandeur of God’s grace, or the transforming power of Christ’s work in the life of a believer. Over time, and by God’s gracious provision of solid biblical teaching, our own understanding grew, and our children received the benefits of being instructed in this glorious Gospel.

These thoughts came to mind this week as I read Jason Allen’s short article, “10 Tips for Leading Kids to Christ.” In it he briefly expounds on these basic points:

sharinggospelquote1. Remember, children do not have to become like adults to be saved; adults have to become like children.
2. Remember, you are responsible for your child’s spiritual formation, not your church, your pastor, or your children’s minister.
3. Remember what conversion is.
4. Share your testimony with your children.
5. Share the gospel with your children.
6. Share the gospel in front of your children.
7. Provide natural contexts for spiritual conversations.
8. Encourage steps toward Jesus.
9. Talk to your pastor.
10. Be quick with the gospel, but slow with the baptistery.

It was points 5 and 6 that really got my attention. Because, just like my husband and I years ago assumed we knew the Gospel, there is an assumption that every Christian parent not only knows the essential truths of the Gospel, but can also articulate these truths in a child-friendly manner. Oh how I wish we would have had more help in this regard back when our children were young!

CHGOEPThat is why Children Desiring God developed Helping Children to Understand the Gospel. This short booklet  aims to equip parents for this precious privilege and responsibility. Not only does this booklet give some basics to consider before sharing the Gospel, but it also includes a devotional guide written in child-appropriate language that presents and explains 10 essential Gospel truths.

 

Our Children and the Reformation

Our Children and the Reformation

A few weeks ago, I spent a significant amount time writing a lesson for children on the topic of “justification.” It was a struggle that required much Bible study, prayer, help from commentaries, and reading some heavyweight theologians. And then the struggle begins: make it readily understandable and engaging for children.

All of this came to mind this week when I read Jeff Robinson’s article, “5 Reasons to Teach Your Kids About the Reformation.” It’s a great and encouraging read for parents and teachers. Here are his five reasons:

1. I want them to know about God’s faithfulness to his church.
2. I want them to know reformation must continue.
3. I want them to know defending the Bible is dangerous, but worth the risk.
4. I want them to know God does extraordinary things through ordinary people.
5. I want them to know the gospel is everything.

His comments on this last point were especially encouraging to me:

The Reformation boils down to a recovery of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We are justified by faith in the substitutionary death of Christ. That’s the gospel. Remove it and you derail the engine that propels the train of eternal salvation. Remove it and you leave the body of Christ without a beating heart. Remove it and the Christian faith evaporates like a summer mist. The gospel was the battleground of the Reformation. No wonder the seed of the serpent attacks it in every generation.

Our Children and the ReformationI want my children to know that without the gospel, they cannot make sense of life in a fallen world. Without the gospel, there’s no hope in this life or the next, no real purpose to our days and seasons. Calvin said justification is the hinge on which the door of salvation swings. I want them to keep a close watch on that door.

I highly recommend reading the entire article. The importance of the Reformation is not just for Christian academics and historians. The next generation of Christians—our children—need to keep its truths and convictions alive in each generation.

 

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

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

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

Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation

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

We must declare the whole counsel of God…

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

 

 

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

For Further Thought

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

 

We must declare the whole counsel of God

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

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

 

 

The Holy Responsibility of Parents

The Holy Responsibility of Parents

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

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

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

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

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

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

Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God

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

 

Discussion Questions

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

 

For Further Thought

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

 

 

Some of the Best Advice I Can Give Teachers

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Many of you have recently received your new curriculum for the coming year—or you will be getting it very soon. Whether this is your first time using CDG curriculum, or even if this is your 10th time, I have the same advice: Read through the entire Preface and Introduction! Yes, all of it, every single page. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  • The preface and introduction convey the “big picture” of the study.
    Knowing this ahead of time will give you a better perspective from which to prepare and teach the individual lessons. Each study has a particular focus and flow, which serves to build biblical concepts precept-by-precept. Think of the preface and introduction like the picture on the outside of a puzzle box, showing how the final picture should look when all the pieces have been joined together.
  • The introduction answers the most commonly asked questions ahead of time.
    If you were to simply pick up a lesson and try to teach it, you would probably have quite a few questions: How long does this lesson take to teach? Why are some questions in italics? Why are some Bible references in parentheses? Does each child need a Bible? etc.
  • The introduction provides important guidance regarding classroom structure.
    The curriculum was written to work best within certain requirements. While these may need to be adjusted to fit your particular situation, some requirements are more crucial than others. Knowing these will help you plan and structure the most optimum teaching situation.
  • The introduction explains the format and layout of the lessons.
    The lessons all have the same basic structure. The introduction explains this structure so that teachers and small group leaders can fully understand and make the best use this structure. This will help you as you prepare for each lesson.
  • The introduction provides an overview of all necessary curriculum components.
    More than a few times our customer service has received calls from teachers who are confused because something seems “missing” from the lesson material. They are surprised to find out that a crucial component has not been provided (e.g., a classroom poster). The introduction outlines all necessary components and suggestions for using and storing them.
  • The introduction provides teachers and small group leaders with helpful goals and practical tips.
    The lessons are written and designed with an underlying philosophy that we believe serves to actively engage the heart and mind of the student. The introduction will give you the basic pillars of this philosophy and the associated teaching methods employed.

Just as a personal note of how important it is to read through the introduction: This year I am going to be teaching my grandchildren The ABCs of God. I am very familiar with this curriculum because I wrote it. Yet, this week I am reading through the entire preface and introduction. Why? As a helpful reminder and overview of the purpose, flow, and structure of the study.

So, my advice: Read the Preface and Introduction! You’ll be glad you did.

(Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Hope-filled Labor in the Classroom

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I have given up. The white flag has been raised. I worked so hard to keep away the pests, disease, deer, and other harmful critters. The weather didn’t cooperate either. It feels as if my efforts to prepare, plant, and harvest produce from my garden have been in vain. Why even bother with gardening anymore?

Sometimes it is tempting to have a similar attitude as we face another year in the Sunday school classroom. So much labor is involved—preparing lessons, worship songs, special activities, and more. And yet, even in our pray-soaked diligence, we know that some children and youth will seem uninterested in the truths of Scripture. They may even appear indifferent to our earnest calls for them to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Or, while demonstrating a genuine trust in Christ, we may feel disappointed by their lack spiritually maturity and slow pace of growth. Does that mean our labor is in vain?

Here is a verse filled with hope:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV)

…in the Lord your labor is not in vain!

“In the Lord”—

  • Trusting in His sovereign goodness
  • Being confident that He loves our students more than we do
  • Believing that He alone has the power to bring about new life
  • Knowing that we are called to be faithful to “sow and water”—faithfully teaching and explaining the truths of the Bible—while depending on God to give the growth
  • Teaching from a heart that is filled with joy in Christ
  • Prepared to share the hope that is within us
  • Always mindful that everything we say and do in the classroom should reflect the greatness and worth of God, His majestic holiness!

Will any of us demonstrate this perfectly in our classrooms this year? No, but the God who calls us IS perfectly faithful to complete His sovereign will. That difficult, uninterested, indifferent, 8-year-old boy might just grow up to be an extraordinary man of faith 30 years down the road.

So, labor hard “in the Lord” in your classroom this year, and don’t give up. In the Lord, our earnest but imperfect teaching skills, worship leading, and small group discussions are not in vain. I fully believe that in the future—maybe not until heaven—we will be amazed to see the harvest that God was pleased to bring about through the grace-dependent efforts in our Sunday school classrooms.

(Image courtesy of radnatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Why Students Workbooks?

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Here is a frequent question we get at CDG this time of year:

Do I really need to buy student workbooks that are recommended for each curriculum?

First, let me tell you why we developed workbooks to accompany each study.

  • Workbooks for younger children provide them with opportunities for “hands-on” activity—coloring, pasting, taping, stickers, stamps, etc. This helps students focus as the adult leader reviews key lesson themes and asks children follow-up questions.
  • Workbooks—especially in our revised curricula—are integrated into the Small Group Application found at the end of each lesson. Therefore, students need the workbooks in order to complete certain portions of the application section. These exercises are meant to reinforce important truths taught in the lesson.
  • Workbooks for older children provide the students with a variety of opportunities for note-taking, class activities, personal application, and further study.
  • Workbooks provide students and parents with a resource that summarizes the precept-upon-precept study, in its entirety. In other words, if a student misses lessons during the year, he or she will still have a complete outline of the study from beginning to end.
  • Workbooks provide the students with a tangible, interactive resource through which the truths presented in the lesson can be reviewed and remembered.

In order to accomplish these outcomes, we strongly recommend purchasing the printed, bound workbook for each student or printing out a corresponding number of licensed copies of the electronic edition of the entire workbook and then binding it in some manner for the students.

What about one–time visitors or sporadic attenders? You’re welcome to print copies of workbook page for occasional visitors when needed, but if any of those visitors becomes a regular attender, then we suggest giving that child his or her own bound workbook.

In summary, Student Workbooks serve a two-fold purpose:

  • They help students synthesize the information that was learned during the lesson and cement that knowledge in their minds.
  • They are a tool to enhance the application process, whereby the students are encouraged to move from head knowledge to heart application—responding to the truths learned.

(Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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