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For the Indestructible Joy of the Next Generation

As a conclusion to his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told a story that, for generations, has been famous among Sunday school children and, for decades, has captured the desire of our hearts for the next generations:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 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 7:24-27).

We don’t want to raise a generation of fools who grow up hearing, yet neglecting, the words of Jesus. We want our children to be among the wise in their generation. We want them to be equipped for living by faith in the Son of God, walking in His ways, trusting Him in every circumstance, standing firm against the schemes of the devil, forsaking the things of this world and the desires of the flesh, laying up treasures in heaven, holding fast with confidence in His goodness, resting in His sovereignty, running with endurance the race that is set before them, persevering in the full assurance of hope, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, standing on the promises of God, and enduring in an unshakable faith when the inevitable storms of life blow and beat against them. The fruit of this unshakable faith is an indestructible joy.

As Jesus’ final hour was approaching he warned his disciples that the storms were coming. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). On the night before He endured the cross, Jesus said, “Truly, truly…you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful…” But on the heels of that warning, Jesus quickly assured them that their “sorrow will turn into joy….and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:20-22). In other words, the fruit of their unshakable faith was an indestructible joy.

For more than 20 years, the pursuit of this indestructible joy for the next generations has been the heartbeat of Children Desiring God (now Truth78). On several occasions during this span, God used many voices to inspire, encourage, and support thousands in this pursuit as men and women from across this country and around the world gathered in Minnesota, and once in Indiana, for our national conferences. The book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations is an effort to gather a taste of these timeless messages into one place with the prayer that they will continue to inspire, encourage, and support thousands more. As you read the words of these servants, and perhaps listen to their original messages below let them serve as a reminder of this pursuit that has defined our ministry.


Order a copy of Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations or get a free digital download of the book when you subscribe to the Truth78 e-newsletter.

Listen to the full conference messages related to each book chapter:

David Michael
No Greater Joy

Mark Vroegop
Declaring the Whole Counsel of God

John Piper
Why Theology and Doctrine Matter in Children’s Ministry

Bruce A. Ware
Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God

Sally Michael
Teaching the Difficult Doctrines of God

Timothy Paul Jones
Equipping the Family to Do Discipleship

Jill Nelson
Teaching the Whole Counsel of God
Presenting the Gospel to Children

C.J. Mahaney
Sovereign Grace and the Salvation of Children

Russell Moore
No Longer Tossed To and Fro

Albert Mohler, Jr.
Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform

Wayne Grudem (messages referenced in Afterward)
Teaching the Richness of the Entire Gospel, Part 1
Teaching the Richness of the Entire Gospel, Part 2

Ten Essential Gospel Truths to Teach Children

In our desire to lead children to faith in Christ, parents and teachers can feel overwhelmed by all they want and need to teach children. Have you ever wondered what’s most important to teach children about the Gospel? Following are 10 essentials:

1. God is the sovereign Creator of all things.

Scripture: Psalm 19:1, Psalm 22:28; Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 44:24

Implication: God made you. You belong to God. God is your ruler.

2. God created people for His glory.

Scripture: Psalm 29:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; 1 Corinthians 10:31

Implication: God created you to know, trust, and love Him most of all.

3. God is holy and righteous.

Scripture: Leviticus 19:2, 37; Deuteronomy 32:4; Romans 7:12

Implication: God is holy and righteous. God’s commands are holy and righteous. You must obey God’s commands all the time.

4. Man is sinful.

Scripture: Romans 3:10-18, 20, 23

Implication: You have disobeyed God’s commands. You are a sinner.

5. God is just and is right to punish sin.

Scripture: Isaiah 59:2; Romans 1:18; Romans 6:23a

Implication: You deserve God’s punishment of death and hell. You are helpless to save yourself.

6. God is merciful. He is kind to undeserving sinners.

Scripture: Psalm 145:8; Ephesians 2:8-9

implication: You must depend on God’s mercy in order to be saved.

7. Jesus is God’s holy and righteous Son.

Scripture: John 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:15

implication: Jesus came into the world to save you.

8. God put the punishment of sinners on Jesus, so that His righteousness might be put on them.

Scripture: Isaiah 53:5; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24

Implication: Jesus died on the cross to be punished in your place.

9. God offers the free gift of salvation to those who repent and believe in Jesus.

Scripture: Mark 1:15; John 3:16-17; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9

Implication: God tells you to believe in Jesus and repent of your sins and you will be saved.

10. Those who trust in Jesus will live to please Him and will receive the promise of eternal life— enjoying God forever in heaven.

Scripture: Luke 9:23; John 11:25; 1 John 2:15; Psalm 16:11

Implication: If you are trusting in Jesus for your salvation, you must follow Him. Jesus has promised that when you die He will bring you to heaven to live with and enjoy God forever.

These essential truths are excerpted from the booklet Helping Children to Understand the Gospel which includes a fuller explanation of these essential truths and child-appropriate teaching of them. In addition this resource helps parents discern stages of spiritual growth and prepare the hearts of their children to hear the Gospel.

Summer Reading

As school winds down for a longed-for summer break, teachers and librarians everywhere are urging kids to use the less-scheduled days reading books. “Read for fun! Read for retention! Read for prizes!” It seems there’s no shortage of incentives to make the most of free reading time.

As fun and beneficial and wonderful as leisure reading is, it matters what children are reading. A mix of book types: biography, fiction, nature, informative, poetry, and more can make up a healthy well-rounded reading diet. But there is one area that is often overlooked, yet most necessary: books for spiritual formation.

Truth78 is committed to helping parents pursue the God-glorifying vision of leading their children to walk in the truth. As we’ve said, one way parents do this is by carefully prioritizing and maximizing their children’s spiritual instruction. And one of the key ways to do that is to guide children in their book choices.

In addition to teaching your children how to have a regular, daily time reading their Bible, summer is a good time to encourage them to also read devotional books for spiritual growth. Books that work well for family devotions can also be spiritually edifying reading for older children with more time available for reading in the summer. Revisiting a book that you’ve read together, in order to work through it on their own, can be like hearing new stories while visiting with an old friend.

If you’re looking for a gentle way to introduce grade school children to personal devotional reading, consider the Making Him Known series. Each book focuses on what Scripture teaches about one aspect of God’s deeds: God’s Promises, God’s Gospel, God’s Wisdom, etc. Each chapter of each book reveals some aspect of His “glorious deeds, his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4). Each chapter also includes a section, “Learning to Trust God,” which calls children to respond by setting “their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7) through Christ.

To read more about the Making Him Known series, and to order your copies, visit our online resources page.

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 

 

Spiritual Eyes and Ears for Things Hidden

Have you ever looked at a Magic Eye™ picture? The page is covered with repeated designs that are very apparent to any viewer. But, for those who have eyes to see in a new way, you can also see a three-dimensional hidden picture. Many people never see the hidden picture. They only see the surface picture and never really understand that there is a more beautiful picture within the easily seen picture.

So it is with Jesus’ parables. Beyond the mere words of the parables are deep, hidden spiritual truths—truths like the Kingdom of God is a treasure worth more than all we have, God welcomes repentant sinners with great celebration, and God seeks the lost.

These truths are hidden truths unless one has been given the spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear them. Their beauty and worth are denied, misunderstood, or rejected by those whose eyes are blind and ears are deaf to spiritual truth. To see and hear the hidden things of God requires spiritual eyes and ears. Hunger for spiritual truth requires awakened senses, and to love the things of God requires a new heart. (See Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26.)

God alone is the source of spiritual eyes and undivided hearts. Only He can make blind eyes see, deaf ears hear, dead taste buds hunger, and hardened hearts soft.

It is my prayer and desire that through this brief study of some of the parables of Jesus—earthly stories with hidden meaning about the Kingdom of God— God may be pleased to open the eyes of the blind, heal the ears of the deaf, and soften the hearts of the hardened.

The thoughts above are expressed in the preface of the Backyard Bible Club/Vacation Bible School curriculum, Things Hidden. Perhaps you have taught the material and have seen the power of the Word of God to open a child’s eyes to spiritual truth. Perhaps you have had the privilege of seeing God at work through His Word to create spiritual hunger in a child… or the unparalleled joy of seeing a child’s heart respond in simple faith. If so, you know that the parables in the Bible are powerful. Might you want to be part of imparting these great spiritual truths to a group of children in your neighborhood or your church? If so, you may consider exploring the newly revised version of Things Hidden.


Discover the Revised Things Hidden Curriculum

What’s new about it?

Reformatted lessons

Lessons match our Sunday school curriculum format to make it easier to teach. Page flow has been improved with clearly indicated visuals and easy to follow teaching instructions and text. In addition, lesson concepts are more clearly explained and the application section has been expanded and improved.

All new visuals and additional resources


The visuals for Things Hidden are all new designs with original illustrations. Several additional resources are also included such as a puppet show script and promotional posters and postcards to invite people to your VBS or Backyard Bible Club.

New student project

The student project for the curriculum is now a treasure box with images of parables on the inside for children to color. Once it’s colored, students can fold it into a box. The box is full color (wood grain) on the outside and black and white on the inside for kids to color.

Each lesson has 4 Treasure cards children can fill out and add to their box:

  • Memory Verse Cards – children can decorate with stickers or draw pictures on to remind them of the lesson
  • Lesson-Specific Treasure Cards – children may attach a treasure to remind them of the parable in the lesson (a seed, a pearl, etc.)
  • Reflection Cards – children think about an application question and write a response.
  • Additional Treasure Cards – children can look around their everyday surroundings and collect things from nature, wisdom from parents, or Bible verses and share what they’ve found on the card.

To assist leaders in discussing the Gospel at a deeper level with the children they interact with, the booklet Helping Children to Understand the Gospel is included in the kit.

What hasn’t changed?

The rich five-lesson content remains the same as well as the intentional use of Bible verses and passages.

See sample lesson

Laying a Sure Foundation for Babies and Toddlers

How would you describe your church’s nursery environment? What are the expectations when parents hand over their child to the nursery workers? How do nursery staff perceive their role? How does your pastor and leadership view the nursery? These are all good questions to ponder.

For too long nurseries have been part of church life because somebody has to take care of the infants and toddlers while their parents participate in worship services and Sunday school classes. But we at Truth78 believe the church nursery can and should be an exciting and vital ministry in the church as it serves to nurture the faith of the next generation.  We believe that the nursery should be a place where babies and toddlers are:

  • welcomed and cared for with the love of Jesus
  • prayed for
  • taught about God through the repetition of simple truth statements
  • introduced to foundational Bible stories
  • encouraged with Scripture memory verses
  • surrounded by sights, sounds, and experiences that provide spiritual nourishment for young souls
  • tenderly acquainted with the Gospel

This puts nursery ministry in a whole new light. Nursery is not just a ministry to parents as we care for their children. It is more than changing diapers, feeding a baby his bottle, and calming a crying child. It is kingdom ministry to the “least of these.” Consider these words from John Piper,

Jesus took the child-belittling culture of his day which defined “greatness” to exclude “receiving children” and he turned it upside down. He said: “Receiving children in my name is the world’s least, and the world’s least is my great.” So wherever the Spirit of Christ pervades, the people who receive children will no longer be the “least.” They will be “great.”

Really? Why? Because to receive a child in Jesus’ name (i.e., out of love, in his strength, and for his glory) is to receive Jesus, and to receive Jesus is to receive God the Father. Which means that the nursery may be more full of God than any other room in the church.

At Truth78 we earnestly desire to highlight the significance of the church nursery by providing resources and training that aids churches–ministry leaders, volunteers, and parents–in creating a Gospel-loving, Bible-saturated, Spirit-dependent atmosphere for babies and toddlers. When this type of vision and philosophy is established and communicated, a nursery worker will no longer see his or her involvement merely as babysitting. Rather, participation in nursery ministry will be understood as laying the foundations for the faith of the next generation. An hour strategically used for kingdom purposes can, by God’s sovereign grace, reap a harvest of souls.

How to nourish the spiritual lives of babies and toddlers

We believe there are at least three important elements of the atmosphere of the nursery. Each is strategically incorporated and further explained in our nursery curriculum: A Sure Foundation: A Philosophy and Curriculum for Ministry to Infants and Toddlers.

1. Create an atmosphere that is God-oriented in its character. A nursery ministry focused on spiritual work will have an atmosphere permeated with the fragrance of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). It should be obvious to anyone entering the nursery that it is a place of loving kindness and soul nurturing. Here are several practical ways to implement this:

  • Strive for calmness and joy in the nursery. Be the “fragrance of Christ.” Encourage volunteers to exhibit this demeanor in their interactions with the children and each other. To facilitate this, consider playing hymns and worship music in the background. Join in the singing at times. These can be upbeat, happy songs or soothing, gentle music. Posters of worship songs and hymns can be posted on the nursery walls to facilitate singing.
  • Decorate the room with pictures or posters that reflect biblical truth. These can then be used to point children God-ward. For example, it is more strategic to have a picture of Jesus with the little children than a picture of a cartoon character. A volunteer can use the former to tell children, “Jesus loves the little children.” A poster of a kitten is cute, but a poster of a kitten with the saying, “God made kittens” is better.
  • Be intentional in using speech and singing as a means of conveying biblical truth. Although a baby may not understand the words “Jesus loves you” or “God made these little toes,” we should not underestimate what God might be pleased to do through the telling of these simple truths. Prayers and words of blessing can be spoken over a child as he is placed in a crib or as he leaves the nursery.

2. Create an atmosphere of humble dependence. Psalm 121:1 says that “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”  All our efforts will be fruitless unless the Lord is at work in the hearts of the little ones in the nursery. We are called to be faithful in imparting truth and sharing our faith, but God is the one who causes our efforts to bear fruit. It is good for nursery workers to remember that our attitude should be one of humble dependence on God. One way to exhibit this is to begin the nursery time in prayer and incorporate it throughout various times of the nursery session.

3. Create an atmosphere characterized by godly people. Although the words spoken may not be understood by a baby, the tone or the emotion of the adult caring for him can be sensed. In other words, the godly spirit of a nursery worker can minister to a baby in his care. Therefore it is strategic to nurture the souls of the nursery workers so they can nurture the souls of the babies in the nursery. This means that hiring unbelievers to work in the nursery will defeat your goal of having a spiritual atmosphere in the nursery. Carefully screen, train, equip, and encourage nursery volunteers.

Getting started

Truth78’s nursery and toddler curriculum, A Sure Foundation, provides a thorough explanation of our vision, philosophy, and methodology as well as numerous visuals, Bible stories, memory verses, and other helpful resources. We encourage you to carefully read all of the introductory material in order to understand how the curriculum is structured and how it can be used in your particular setting. We also highly recommend the following seminar and accompanying handout. They offer inspiration and practical tips for using the material:

Nursery and Toddler Ministry (audio) 

Nursery and Toddler Ministry (PDF) 

 

That They May Know, Honor, and Treasure God

Our new vision statement communicates our heartfelt desire for the next generations and begins with three distinct goals: that the next generations know, honor, and treasure God. Why these three? Because we believe each communicates essential, foundational realities necessary for the Christian life.

Know God  

In its totality, knowing God encompasses both an intellectual comprehension and a covenantal relationship. Both are crucial. Consider these words from John Piper in an Ask Pastor John segment, 

If you start at the beginning, the first and great commandment says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). So I would think, since that is the first commandment, that is the first challenge in every generation. Does the church and does the world love God with all their heart and all their soul and all their mind and all their strength? …if we don’t know God, we can’t love God.

Our worship to glorify God must be based on what we have seen of God, what we know of God, what he has revealed of Himself. If we are just worshiping a haze, God is not getting a lot of glory from the warm feelings that we are having in our hearts because of the ignorance of not being in our heads, because of the haze over our lives.

So today I think the biggest challenge is: Do people know God? Do people have a knowledge that is trustworthy? Therefore a huge issue is: What is the role of the Bible in the church today and is it trustworthy and are people basing their lives on it…? Are they getting the whole counsel of God so that they can love the whole God?

When we say our desire for the next generations is to know God, we want them to come to genuinely know the truth of the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—by becoming acquainted with His divine character, glorious deeds, redemptive work, and steadfast promises as revealed in His inerrant Word, the Bible. Our prayer is that, by God’s sovereign grace, this knowledge will bring them into a covenantal relationship with God.

Honor God

Honor is a word that has become almost obsolete in contemporary culture. So few things are honored and so few things are worthy of honor. Tragically the church has not been immune to this trend. The late Jerry Bridges gives us a wonderful reminder we need to heed,

It is impossible to be devoted to God if one’s heart is not filled with the fear of God. It is the profound sense of veneration and honor, reverence and awe that draws forth from our hearts the worship and adoration that characterizes true devotion to God.

In our day we must begin to recover a sense of awe and profound reverence for God. We must begin to view Him once again in the infinite majesty that alone belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Ruler of the entire universe (The Practice of Godliness—Godliness Has Value for All Things, 21).

When we state our desire for the next generations to honor God, we want them to honor and revere God in a way befitting His incomparable greatness and worth.

Treasure God

As the most important command of Scripture points out, love for God is to be ultimate, and it should involve every aspect of our being—every thought, emotion, attitude, word, and action. God is worthy of our greatest affections. One way in which to communicate this type of love, especially to children, is to speak in terms of treasuring God most. As Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Therefore, we could define loving God as knowing, feeling, and treating God as your greatest treasure. Treasuring God in this manner is the only thing that will ultimately satisfy the soul. It is within this context that we realize that the command to love God most is not only our greatest duty, but also our greatest delight.

So when we state our desire for the next generations to treasure God, we want them to treat God with undivided love and devotion, experiencing Him as their all-satisfying joy.

At Truth78, our hope and prayer is that the next generations know, honor, and treasure God. But this statement would not be realized if not for the very next words: setting their hope in Christ alone. Our children and students must set their full confidence and hope in Christ. It is only through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection that Jesus redeems sinners so that we might truly know, honor, and treasure God for all eternity.

 

Keep Your Children in Worship, for Worship

I remember asking my Dad if I needed to tithe on my small allowance when I was very young. How could a dime make a difference to the work of the church? I wondered. “I think I should wait to start tithing until I have more to give,” I said, as he handed me my dollar. “If I had a hundred dollars and could give ten, it would matter more,” I said. “And it would be a lot easier then, because I’d still have 90 left to spend,” I thought.

“If you don’t learn to do it with a small amount,” he said, “you’ll never do it when you have more. It gets harder, not easier.” I never forgot his wise counsel and have often thanked God for giving me my Dad who taught me the importance of gladly giving back to God. But it’s not just generosity God wants from his people, no matter how young.

He wants their attention. And ultimately, their worship.

It’s easy to look at your squirming, squawking, distracting toddlers and young children and think, surely it will be easier to train them to sit still and listen quietly to the sermon when they’re older. But as with early lessons in giving money back to God, so too, early lessons in giving attention to God have the potential to bear much fruit.

We didn’t start taking our little ones into the service with us until our third child was born. By then, we were attending a mega church where a handful of families who kept their children in the service all clustered together in one area of the auditorium. What started as a practical help to us getting to church on time—thereby avoiding the multi-room, even multi-building drop-off—soon became a matter of conviction. I didn’t realize how formative it could be for young ones to sing along with Mom and Dad, to color quietly while the pastor preached, to ask simple questions on the drive home about what they heard, in an effort to encourage their listening. But I was so glad God changed our minds about taking our kids with us into worship. Just a few other families, amidst hundreds, were enough to help us take courage and break out of the status quo of the “children’s church” model.

It may feel like an overwhelming idea: keeping your children of all ages with you in church. But it is not only possible, it is rich with promise; and likely not as hard a transition as you might fear.

Practice Active Listening

We tend to get good at what we practice. This works to our benefit with piano lessons, but also to our harm with vices. If you hand your child your smart phone or tablet for the short-term gains of keeping her quiet, you will set her on the dangerous path of getting very practiced at tuning out the preaching of God’s Word. You may assume she’ll naturally pay attention when she’s older, but paying attention is something we must work at, no matter our age. We all need help to extend our naturally short attention spans. One of the best ways you can do that is by minimizing, not increasing, distractions.

Sitting quietly and listening in church can be learned by even very young children and it is a worthy goal to level earn how; but not merely for the peace of the people around you in church.

Listen for Salvation

God designed us to believe in Christ by way of our ears. Paul says in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Hearing is essential to salvation. But merely being in the room where the salvation message is preached faithfully is not enough.

The high number of children raised in the church who leave when they become teenagers shows that it is not enough to get your children to church. According to R.C. Sproul, “A recent survey of people who used to be church members revealed that the main reason they stopped going to church is that they found it boring.” What children do while they are in church matters. How many countless people heard Paul preach but to no saving effect? “In one ear and out the other,” so the saying goes. What made the difference? Luke says in Acts 16:14, “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”

Two things stand out as necessary for saving faith: the work of the Lord to regenerate the sinner’s heart, and the active listening of paying attention. This is not a passive posture, but one that anticipates receiving something from the speaker. Pray for your children and with your children that God will give them the ability to pay attention. We have made it our habit to pray as a family in the car on the way to church. My husband asks the Lord to bless the preaching of God’s Word, and to give us ears to hear it. It is so important your children know that you need help to pay attention, too!

Model Joyful Listening

Once there, model paying attention for joy, for love to God, and for being built up by the Word preached. Listening to the active, living Word that is sharper than any two-edged sword, with the power to raise the dead to life and transform them into the image of Christ should not be drudgery. Do your children know you love God’s Word? That you look forward to hearing it preached? Do they see you listening to it and loving it, being challenged and convicted by it, and ultimately, being changed by it?

No matter what you say about the centrality of the Word preached, it is how you behave in relation to it that will have the greatest impact on your children. Your kids need to see you being joyful, expectant, convicted, engaged, transformed—everything but bored. At its heart, the reason quiet listening matters is not primarily so you won’t disturb the people around you—the quiet part—but so that you will hear words of life—the listening part—and be transformed by the Word of Life.

Plan Ahead

A little planning ahead of time can help orient your children to the service and know what to expect.

Set Expectations. Tell your children that the worship service isn’t a time to eat, or talk, or play, but to listen, learn, and believe. Help your children by providing quiet activities that help them listen and serve those in the pews or chairs around them. Consider getting them a church notebook and pen or pencil for drawing pictures of what they’re hearing, and when they’re able to write, to take notes.

Practice. Take an order of service, program, or liturgy—whatever your church provides for following along—and go through it at home, explaining when to speak, when to sing, when to sit, when to stand, etc. Let them know that you want them to join in the activities. Consider listening to the songs that will be sung and sing them together.

Prepare. Feed your children a hearty breakfast so they won’t be distracted by a growling stomach. Take them to the bathroom before the service starts with the goal of remaining in the service without interruption.

It is worth every effort you make to train your children to join in the singing, listen to the preaching, and participate in the praying of God’s Word. This is the path to everlasting life.

*For further encouragement and practical help, Truth78 has created a reproducible PDF for parents and churches, “8 Tips for Helping Your Child Worship.”

 

Church and Home: Better Together

My birding binoculars recently went haywire. When you look through both eyepieces you get a distorted double image. Yet if you look through each individual eyepiece using one eye at a time, you get a clear image. The problem is that this image is very limited in its scope. Somehow the two eyepieces are out of sync with one another, greatly reducing the usefulness of the binoculars.

This illustration can help in describing the importance of the church and home working “in sync”—in  partnership—with one another in nurturing the faith of the next generations. Though parents are given the primary responsibility to raise children in the faith, by design and opportunity (Deuteronomy 6:4-7), God has also designed that this nurturing take place in partnership with the church (Matthew 28:18-20 and Ephesians 4:11-13).  This partnership affirms the role and responsibility of church leadership to provide encouragement and training for parents as well as provide formal instruction for children and youth.  Individually, both church and home, have an important role to play in our children’s discipleship. But the scope and impact will be far greater when church and home are intentionally working together to nurture the faith of our children.

The first step in fostering this biblical parent-church partnership is to explore, clarify, and communicate what this partnership consists of and how it will be fleshed out, addressing questions like:

  • What is the church’s vision for children’s and youth ministry?
  • What will be the church’s responsibility in pursuing this vision?
  • What specific biblical instruction will be offered to children and youth?
  • How will the church equip parents?
  • What is expected of parents?

Getting started

Here are two printable documents that outline some first steps and practical suggestions for fostering a healthy partnership between church and home.

Parents: Partnering with Your Church

Church: Partnering with Parents

 

 

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