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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

 

 

The Joyful Responsibility of Discipling Our Children

Parents desire many things to be true of our children as they grow and mature. For example, we want our children to be loving, respectful, caring, productive, motivated, resilient, happy, and more. All are good things and worthwhile goals and require some measure of our time and attention as we instruct and train our children toward these goals. But consider these words:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.—3 JOHN 1:4

This simple statement can serve to orient all of our parenting. More than anything else, our children need to know, embrace, and walk in the truth—the truth of God. The truth revealed in His Word has the power to make them wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ—the truth that all-satisfying and everlasting joy is found in Him alone, the truth that saving faith will be evidenced by a life that submits to the Savior and walks in His ways. This goal and aim is reflected in Truth78’s Vision Statement:

Truth78 is a vision-oriented ministry for the next generations—that they 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.

If parents are to pursue this God-glorifying vision for our children, we must make sure to carefully prioritize and maximize our children’s spiritual instruction. While there is an important and God-ordained role for the wider body of Christ (the church) in biblical instruction, parents have the primary responsibility and the greatest opportunity to influence their children’s spiritual development. (See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.)  

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.1

R.C. SPROUL

One thing that often hinders parents in this regard is the pressure of competing demands on our time and energy. These are valid concerns. But consider for a moment these thoughts from Pastor Chap Bettis: 

“Where does discipling my child fit with the other priorities?” Surrounding us are parents making superhuman sacrifices for their children’s soccer practice, hockey practice (5 a.m. ice time?), academic progress, and music lessons (two instruments at the same time?). We can be tempted to follow them. While we may give lip service to discipling our children, the reality comes when we start prioritizing activities.

The apostle John expressed his heart for his spiritual children when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Here lies the crux of the matter: The first battleground of family discipleship is not my child’s heart—it is my heart. Each parent must decide whether he is more concerned that his child be accepted into Heaven, or “Harvard.” We all have “Harvards”—those worldly successes we desire for our children, but the question remains, “Which is most important to me?” Each parent must finish the sentence “I have no greater joy than…”

I would emphasize here that the challenge of priorities is often not the good versus the bad, rather, the good versus the better. Given a finite amount of time, energy, and money, what will you choose?2

CHAP BETTIS

As parents, our first priority must be our desire for our children’s spiritual development. Then we can order our time and energies accordingly. One way to do this is to establish a regular time of formal biblical instruction in the home through family devotions. 

Family Devotions Basics

At its core, family devotions simply involve setting aside a designated time in family life in which to be devoted to God together. Along with reading, interacting with, and instruction from the Scriptures, families often include a time of prayer, a response of worship (singing), and personal application.  

Truth78 Devotional Resources

Most families find it helpful to use published devotional materials designed specifically for families. At Truth78, we currently offer a variety of devotional resources to use in the family.

The Teaching Philosophy and Methodology of Truth78 Devotional Resources

We believe that there is an important progression involved in encouraging our children for a life of faith in Christ. To put it very succinctly: MIND HEART WILL. Children must first be presented with biblical truth for their minds to absorb, ponder, and understand. Knowledge of God and His Word is the essential first step for faith (Romans 10:17). You cannot trust, love, and act upon what you do not know. Next, that truth must go beyond mere knowledge. It must reach and transform the heart so that children might truly embrace, cherish, and love the truth—specifically love of God through faith in Christ. Finally, this love will affect the will as it comes under submission to Christ, producing decisions, choices, words, and actions that are pleasing to God. 

While we must fully acknowledge that only God can bring about this Spirit-wrought, grace-dependent transformation, we believe that it is our responsibility to guide, inspire, and implore our children to make a personal and sincere response to God’s truth in their minds, hearts, and will. Therefore, our devotional resources are designed to instruct the mind, engage their hearts, and influence the will.

Practical Tips for Family Devotion Times

For some, especially those who grew up in the absence of family devotion time, leading family devotions can feel intimidating and stressful. But there are also a variety of things that you can do to create a more conducive environment for your family.

  • Have a regularly scheduled (and child-friendly) time for devotions. 
  • Keep track of time—stretch your child’s attention span, but don’t exasperate them. 
  • It is preferred that (if possible) the father should lead the devotional time. 
  • Choose a regular place in your home—one with as few distractions as possible (no TV, etc.). 
  • Begin your time with prayer. 
  • Put any and all electronic devices (e.g. phones, tablets) out of reach. 
  • End in prayer. 
  • In order to motivate a younger child’s attentiveness, consider following your devotional time with a special snack or dessert.

1. From, “The Most Solemn Mandate in the Bible for Parents”, ligonier.org.
2. Bettis, Chap. The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ. (Cumberland, Rhode Island: Diamond Hill Publishing, 2016), 17.

Distinctions of the Truth78 Curriculum

At Truth78, we are committed to making God the main focus of each and every lesson by unfolding the Scriptures for children. Though each curriculum in our scope and sequence differs somewhat based on age and particular focus, all of our Sunday School, Midweek Bible, and Intergenerational curricula share the following distinctions:

  • A Big Vision of God—Our curricula aims to acquaint children with the incomparable majesty of the triune God by digging deep into His divine character as revealed throughout Scripture. We believe that children should be taught the beauty and grandeur of His manifold perfections. In completing our scope and sequence, children will have learned and explored, with increasing depth, more than 20 distinct attributes of God.
  • The Centrality of God in All Things—Every lesson in every curriculum aims to magnify the triune God above all—His name, fame, honor, and glory. We believe that children will find their greatest joy when they esteem God most. Therefore, the lessons use language, illustrations, and applications that point children toward God-adoration. Furthermore, the curricula challenge children to see that every aspect of life is to fall under centrality of God and His sovereign rule.
  • Doctrinal Depth, Accuracy, and Clarity—We believe deep biblical truths and doctrines can and should be taught to children. Doing so requires teaching truths in an accurate, clear, yet child-friendly manner. To that end, every lesson in our curricula is carefully reviewed by a highly qualified and experienced theological editor.
  • Faithfulness to the Gospel—The central message of the Bible culminates in the Person and work of Jesus—the Gospel—in which He brings sinners near to God. The Gospel is simple yet amazingly profound, freely offered yet extremely costly, and should be communicated as such. We believe this is best done by repeatedly drawing attention to essential Gospel truths found throughout Scripture: God is the sovereign Creator and Ruler, God is holy, man is sinful, God is just, God is merciful, Jesus is holy and righteous, Jesus died to save sinners, etc. Every lesson presents one or more of these essential truths, and every curriculum, as a whole, clearly and explicitly presents the Gospel to children.
  • Interactive Engagement with Scripture—Using an age-appropriate, step-by-step approach, the lesson format trains students to interact with the text using proper Bible study methods. This process begins in earnest in first grade, and increases in depth and rigor as children age and mature. Furthermore, we incorporate an interactive teaching style, carefully laid out for teachers. This serves to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills aimed at a deeper understanding of the things of God and the ability to rightly apply the Word of God.
  • Age-Appropriate Visuals and Illustrations that Enhance the Learning Experience—Key truths are often more easily grasped and better understood when explained in conjunction with concrete visuals and illustrations. Our curricula offer numerous color visuals and suggested illustrations to enhance the learning process. In so doing, children are provided with opportunities to be actively involved in the lesson. These visuals and illustrations are age-appropriate, yet also treat the subject matter in an honoring manner.
  • Personal Application That Encourages a Proper Response in the Mind, Heart, and Will—Each lesson in our curricula ends by encouraging children to personally embrace and apply the truths learned. Through carefully constructed questions, we offer adult leaders practical, specific suggestions to challenge the children in their faith and spiritual walk. Our goal is to encourage genuine faith that is increasingly evidenced by love for God and spiritual fruit and good works. We also offer questions that specifically challenge unbelievers to consider the truths of Scripture.
  • Maximizing Classroom Time with Biblical Teaching and Spiritual Discussion—We believe that time in the classroom should be structured to emphasize biblical teaching and application. However, depending on the age group and time availability, additional hands-on activities may be warranted. Therefore, each lesson suggests further optional activities for the classroom. They have been developed to either reinforce lesson themes or introduce some other valuable faith-building endeavor: missions, Bible skills, Bible memory, etc.

Introducing the New Format Preschool Coloring Books

Children Desiring God Blog // Introducing the New Format Preschool Student Coloring Books

Many of you have asked for a less expensive and less bulky option for the Student Coloring Books in the He Established A Testimony and He Has Spoken By His Son preschool curricula. Our New Format Student Coloring Book answers both of these concerns. The Original Student Coloring Books include a copy of the Parent Resource Page next to each coloring page. The New Format Student Coloring Books have removed these Parent Resource Pages since they are already included in the Teacher’s Kit 3-ring notebook and Resources CD for churches to email to or print and send home with parents. The resulting New Format Student Coloring Books are much leaner – they are less expensive, lighter weight and thinner for those who store the books in the classroom during the week, and remain excellent resources for both classroom and home use.

The New Format Student Coloring Books are now available! We expect that most customers will be excited about the change but recognize that others may have some of the Original Student Coloring Books on hand. These users may want to order additional copies of the Original Students Coloring Books so that all children in a class have the same version. The Original Students Coloring Books will be available through the end of 2018. Users of electronic Student Coloring Books will be able to choose between the Original Student Coloring Book and the New Format. (more…)

Giving Children a Great Vision of God and His Word

 

Children Desiring God Blog // Giving Children a Vision of God and His Word

For some, an initial review of our curriculum and resources might evoke the following:

Why use curricula that is so doctrinally weighty for children?

Why such serious and challenging Bible teaching for young minds and hearts?

 Here are two short videos from Ligonier Ministries that succinctly clarify what is at stake:

Do You Have an Inadequate Understanding of God?” by John MacArthur

Don’t Ever Be Cavalier About the Truth of God” by R.C. Sproul

That is why Children Desiring God is committed to developing resources that present our children and students with a great vision and understanding of God, and a serious study of His Word.

(more…)

NOW AVAILABLE: To Be Like Jesus

Children Desiring God Blog // To Be Like Jesus Curriculum

 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a common question asked of children and young people. Yet as interesting and insightful as their answers may be, this question pales in comparison to a more distinct and crucial one addressed in the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

This question and answer defines our being, identity, and purpose: Godward. It fundamentally grounds us in what is unique about us—that we have been created to reflect and image forth the awesome majesty and worth of our Creator. And, in that imaging forth, we are to pursue the highest purpose: glorifying God! We glorify God by giving Him the honor, respect, love, devotion, obedience, and worship He so rightly deserves.
(more…)

Hope and Help for Leading a Small Group

Children Desiring God Blog // Hope and Help for Leading a Small Group

In my opinion, being a small group leader entrusted with leading application after the Bible lesson is the most challenging role in the Sunday school classroom. So much depends on following the lead of the Holy Spirit as you try to discern the thoughts and attitudes of the students and then encourage their responses God-ward and heart-ward. And what a challenge that can be…with a group of seven wiggly first graders or a group of seven sports-obsessed fifth-grade boys! So maybe this year you have found yourself in this new role and are not sure what to do. Maybe you even feel frustrated and are ready to simply let the students have their way and be squirrel-y or talk sports. Don’t give up! There is hope and help.

Here is the hope: While it is challenging, being a small group leader can also be one of the most rewarding roles in the classroom.

Here is the help: You can grow in your ability to effectively lead a small group.

Here are a few pointers… (more…)

Give Your Children the Gift of Pondering + Free Lesson

Children Desiring God Blog // Give Children the Gift of Pondering

Back in the days when I taught science classes to homeschooled children, I used to emphasize the importance of careful observation. As an example, I would have each child choose a flower or a single leaf, and have them quietly study it for at least 30 minutes and record everything they could about it—size, shape, colors, texture, fragrance, etc. It’s amazing what comes to light about something when you really stop to ponder it. “Ponder—to think about, give thought to, consider, mull over, contemplate, meditate on…” The word “ponder” is not often used anymore in this fast-paced, sound-bite, digital media culture. So a verse like this is often readily passed over:

I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Psalm 77:12, ESV

(more…)

Resources to Help You Pray for the Next Generation

Resources to Help You Pray for the Next Generation

Thank you for joining us in our Praying for the Next Generation challenge over the past week. We hope that this time of praying through Scripture has been an encouragement to you as you have sought God’s guidance on how to build a spiritual foundation for your family and have prayed for God’s redeeming work in your children’s lives. As this 10-day challenge comes to a close, may this be the continuation of treasuring God’s Word as you come before our Father on behalf of your children and the coming generations.

Here are some resources to help you integrate prayer into different areas of your life, both at church and at home, and to help you teach your children about prayer.

 

A Sure Foundation Nursery CurriculumA Sure Foundation Nursery Curriculum

For churches
The verses and designs from this challenge are an element of our newly refreshed and expanded A Sure Foundation: A Philosophy and Curriculum for Ministry to Infants and Toddlers. It is designed to help you transform your ministry to infants and toddlers into an integral beginning—a place of prayer for young children, a place where they hear foundational Bible stories, and a place where children learn simple truth statements and begin to memorize Scripture as they form their language skills. Emphasis is placed on creating an environment of prayer for babies and strategically praying for each infant and toddler by name each time they are in your care. (more…)

Reflecting on the Year’s Children’s and Youth Ministries

Reflecting on the Year's Children's and Youth Ministries

As we quickly come to the completion of another school year, it’s a good time to look back and evaluate our ministry experience with children and youth. One way to do this would be to gather your ministry teams together and talk through the following questions:

  • Was the Bible central in all of our teaching?
  • Was God the main focus of every lesson?
  • Was the Gospel proclaimed?
  • Was Jesus made much of in our classroom, and did we feel His abiding presence from week to week?
  • What evidences of grace have we seen God work in the lives of the children and youth in our classroom?
  • How has God caused me to personally grow this year as I have taught and led these students?
  • Have the students seen the love of Jesus through my demeanor, words, and actions?
  • Did I spend time in faithful prayer for myself, the other teachers, and my students?
  • What has been the greatest joy I’ve experienced this year in ministering to these students? Have I shared that joy with others for their benefit and God’s praise?
  • Have we established good lines of communication with the parents?
  • What has been my biggest challenge this year? Are there steps that I (and others) can take to help overcome this challenge?
  • What would I have wanted to do differently? Why?
  • Is there anything that we would want to communicate to the leadership?

(more…)

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