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A Banner to Fly Over Your Parenting and Children’s Ministry

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What if we were to take this statement and make it a type of banner to fly over our parenting and children’s and youth ministries in the coming years?

Our aim is not to take a child’s low views of self and replace them with high views of self. Rather our aim is to take a child’s low views of God and replace them with high views of God. Our aim is not to take a child with little sense of worth and fill him with a great sense of worth. Rather our aim is to take a child who by nature makes himself the center of the universe and show him that he was made to put God at the center of the universe and get joy not from seeing his own tiny worth, but from knowing Christ who is of infinite worth.

(“Predestined for Adoption to the Praise of His Glory,” by John Piper, ©Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)

Think of how countercultural and even counterintuitive this is…and yet it is so radically biblical and life-giving for our children! In many ways, our resources have been developed underneath this sweeping banner. For example, our first two distinctions are:

  • 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 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.

Every resource we develop seeks to do these things—from nursery and beyond. Two resources in particular are designed to give children a “high view” of God by carefully focusing on His divine attributes and character.

The ABCs of God: A Study for Children on the Greatness and Worth of God (1st – 3rd Grade, 40 lessons)
The ABCs of God was written to present children with the beauty and awesome grandeur of the incomparable greatness and worth of God. Toward this end, this curriculum uses the framework of the alphabet to teach children key attributes of God and other words that define His character. These are deep doctrinal truths that answer the most important questions for each of us, namely, “Who is God? What is God like? How should I respond to God?”

(Note: The revised version of The ABCs of God will be available Summer 2016. Watch the blog for further updates.)

How Majestic Is Your Name: A Study for Children on the Names and Character of God (5th – 6th Grade, 40 lessons)
The names of God in the Bible are a reflection of His character, which is so glorious that He cannot be described by a single name. His character is communicated in hundreds of names progressively revealed in the Bible. But the focus of How Majestic Is Your Name is not the many names, titles and references to God. This are merely the structure to show the greatness of our God. Each lesson presents glorious truths about God and encourages students to see and rejoice in His goodness and greatness.

Is your church already using one or both of these curricula? Have you and your children been encouraged as you have seen a great and marvelous view of God and the surpassing worth of Christ? We would be delighted if you would share an encouraging testimony with us and others.

(Image courtesy of photoexplorer at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Why Choose CDG Curriculum?

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One of the surprising (but delightful) statistics from our recent National Conference was the number of attendees who are new to the ministry of Children Desiring God. For them, the conference served as their first real exposure to our vision, mission, and philosophy. At the conference, they got a high-dose, jam-packed introduction to our ministry. And yet only a relatively small portion of the conference was focused on our curricula, and this was intentional. Why? Because the curricula is NOT the vision of CDG. Rather, it serves as one tool for accomplishing the vision. We believe that it is a valuable and helpful tool, and of course we would be delighted if you would use our curricula in your churches and/or homes.

We also know that there are other wonderful curricula out there to choose from. So why choose CDG? Here are some distinctions we offer:

Our curriculum is committed to…

  • A Big Vision of God
  • The Centrality of God in All Things
  • Doctrinal Depth, Accuracy, and Clarity
  • Faithfulness to the Gospel
  • A Serious and Sober View of Sin
  • A Scope and Sequence that Aims to Present the Whole Counsel of God
  • A Rigorous Study of the Bible and Training of the Mind
  • Age-Appropriate Visuals and Illustrations that Enhance the Learning Experience
  • Personal Application that Encourages a Proper Response in the Mind, Heart, and Will
  • Excitement for God’s Global Purposes
  • Maximizing Classroom Time with Biblical Teaching and Spiritual Discussion
  • Assisting Parents in Discipling their Children
  • Stewardship of Resources

To read a further explanation of each, click here.

 

24 Things Your Child Should Know about the Bible

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Suppose you were to ask your 6- or 7-year-old children or students, “What is the Bible?” How do you think they would answer? Sally Michael believes there are at least 24 things children of this age should know about the Bible:

  • The Bible is a message from God.
  • The Bible is the most special Book.
  • The Bible is written by God.
  • The Bible is true.
  • God watches over the Bible and works to fulfill His Word.
  • The Bible is for everyone.
  • The Bible is full of wonderful verses.
  • God is the main character in the Bible.
  • The Bible is powerful.
  • The Bible is eternal.
  • God will preserve the Bible.
  • The Bible is the ultimate authority.
  • The Bible shows us that our hope is in God.
  • The Bible protects us from sin.
  • The Bible is our guide.
  • The Bible should be obeyed.
  • The Bible is a priceless treasure.

What is the message of the Bible?

  • There is only one true God.
  • We were created to show God’s greatness and worth (God’s glory).
  • All people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • The wages of sin is death.
  • We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.
  • The gift of God is eternal life.
  • God gave us the Bible so that we might believe in Jesus.

Yes, these list is not comprehensive, but it’s a good place to start and provides some concrete, obtainable goals for children. And, to help you do just that, Sally has written a curriculum that carefully explains each of these points:

I Stand in Awe – A Study for Children on the Bible

 26 Lessons

Target Grade: 1st Grade

Grade Range: Kindergarten-2nd Grade

God, who is the most valuable Being in all the universe, reveals Himself with clarity and authority through His Word. This means that the Bible is precious and should be valued more than any other book. This study seeks to acquaint young children with the characteristics of the Bible and its message of redemption. The goal is for children to develop a deep affection for the Bible and learn to treasure its Author.

Learn more about this curriculum here. And a special note to parents: This curriculum is very adaptable for using in the home. Look here for ideas in adapting the curriculum for the home.

Assessing Before You Spring Forward

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Spring time is a super busy season for those of us who garden. But before I begin to plant, there have been weeks of assessment: thinking back to what I planted last year—what worked, and what didn’t work. Why didn’t a certain plant grow well? What changes will I make this year?

In a similar way, spring time is also a great time to assess your children’s and youth ministry programs, curriculum, etc. What in particular needs assessing? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Is there a stated, coherent vision and philosophy from the leadership driving the current structures and programs? If asked, would your teachers and other ministry volunteers be able to succinctly articulate this vision and philosophy?
  • Curriculum (scope and sequence from preschool to high school)—As a whole, does the curriculum used over time reflect the six disciplines of teaching the whole counsel of God? (The six disciplines are: Bible study/chronological stories; biblical theology; systematic theology; moral instruction; explicit Gospel; and Bible study skills.)
  • Does your scope and sequence present these disciplines in a balanced way (not all “biblical theology,” not all “systematic theology,” etc.)?
  • Does the scope and sequence present biblical concepts to the targeted age group at appropriate age/learning levels?
  • Classroom time and structure—What time frame is available for formal teaching on Sundays, midweek, and other avenues? Does the time available prioritize formal Bible instruction?
  • What age groupings compose each classroom? Are these groupings conducive to the learning needs of the age group? Were these groupings arrived at based on necessity or convenience?
  • Were ministry volunteers provided adequate training and encouragement during the year?
  • Church and home instruction—Are there opportunities to partner together with the home in order to enhance and supplement the formal teaching of the church?
  • Is your plan accomplishing your stated goals? Do you have a means to assess this?

Answering the above questions—assessing the current structures, programs, curriculum etc.—can serve as diagnostic tools for planning ahead. It could very well be that your children’s and youth ministry is “on course” with your stated vision. But these questions may also reveal some weaknesses and areas that need to be addressed. Addressing these issues now, before you implement a strategic plan for the coming new school year in the fall is crucial.

(Image courtesy of dusky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Children Need a Robust Doctrine of God

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Imagine a preschool Sunday school curriculum that presents 64 chronological Bible stories from the Old Testament…all of them focusing on the character of God. Is there something wrong with this? Something missing? Doesn’t the whole Bible point to Jesus? Shouldn’t we make clear that every story points to Jesus?

Before you respond to these important and valid questions, I would ask you to carefully read and ponder this quote from J. Gresham Machen:

…when men say that we know God only as He is revealed in Jesus, they are denying all real knowledge of God whatever. For unless there be some idea of God independent of Jesus, the ascription of deity to Jesus has no meaning. To say, “Jesus is God,” is meaningless unless the word “God” has an antecedent meaning attached to it…We are not forgetting the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” But these words do not mean that if a man had never known what the word “God” means, he could come to attach an idea to that word merely by his knowledge of Jesus’ character. On the contrary, the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking had already a very definite conception of God: a knowledge of the one supreme Person was presupposed in all that Jesus said. But the disciples desired not only a knowledge of God but also intimate, personal contact. And that came through their intercourse with Jesus. Jesus revealed, in a wonderfully intimate way, the character of God, but such revelation obtained its true significance only on the basis both of the Old Testament heritage and of Jesus’ own teaching. Rational theism, the knowledge of one Supreme Person, Maker and active Ruler of the world, is at the very root of Christianity.

(“Christianity and Liberalism,” copyright©2009, pages 48-49)

Could it be that, especially for preschoolers, it is crucial that we first focus on giving them a concept of God as revealed in the Old Testament? By introducing them to key truths regarding who God is and what He is like, are we not preparing young children to better understand the significance of what it means that “Jesus is God”?

As much as it is truthful to say that the whole Bible points to Jesus and the Gospel, we must not dismiss or minimize Dr. Machen’s point. Our children need to be taught a robust doctrine of God. They need to see “God” as He has revealed Himself throughout the Old Testament—His power, love, mercy, sovereign rule, holiness, goodness, faithfulness, etc. These are the antecedents that give meaning to the New Testament’s assertion that “Jesus is God,” and they provide the necessary foundation for understanding the message of the Gospel.

Resist the Smorgasbord!

Resist the Smorgasbord: Strategies for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

I once read a book in which the Christian author likened the method often used in the church for discipleship to a smorgasbord—various classes and small groups are offered for people to pick and choose from, mainly based on personal preferences, perceived needs, and “hot topics” of the day. His point was to urge the church to resist this tendency and strive for a more vision-driven, biblical, structured, long-term discipleship strategy. Such a strategy takes into account and incorporates the whole counsel of God and builds in stages—precept-by-precept.

I wonder if we sometimes have a similar “smorgasbord tendency” when it comes to planning for and choosing curriculum for our various children’s and youth ministry classes: What seems good this year? What will the children like? What will peak their (or the teacher’s) interest?…I think we can, and must strive for a more vision-driven, biblical, structured, long-term discipleship strategy—one that seeks to incorporate the whole counsel of God from nursery to high school.

What does this actually look like? To begin with, we believe that there are six basic elements or disciplines that should be included in this long-term strategy:

Elements of Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

  1. A story-based chronological overview of the Bible, which introduces children to the main character of the Bible—God—and acquaints them with key people, places, and events.
  2. A biblical theology that focuses on the main storyline of the Bible, where God progressively reveals His redemptive purposes, which come to their complete fulfillment in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
  3. Systematic theology that teaches foundational doctrines, which summarize the Bible’s teaching on various subjects.
  4. Moral instruction—the commands of Scripture, which communicate ethical instruction, guiding us in the righteous ways of God.
  5. An explicit presentation of the essential truths of the Gospel, leading to a clear understanding of saving faith.
  6. Bible study methods to provide the necessary tools for rightly reading and interpreting Scripture.

A strategic, long-term plan makes curriculum choices at the various grade levels with these basic elements or disciplines in mind. It asks questions such as: Over the span of nursery to high school, are our students receiving the whole counsel of God? Are we introducing these elements at age-appropriate levels? Does our overall strategy reflect a proper biblical balance?

2016 National ConferenceIf you long to explore this topic further and want practical help in structuring a plan for the children’s and youth ministries of your church, I would love to have you come to my seminar at our National Conference in April…

Making a Strategic Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

This seminar will present an overview for planning and implementing a scope and sequence in your children’s and youth ministry that serves to thoroughly acquaint your students with the whole counsel of God. Starting in the nursery years and moving through high school, we will explore options and strategic goals for various age groups.

Now Available: The Fighter Verses Study!

The Fighter Verses Study

What could be more valuable than teaching families not only to know the Scriptures, but also to linger over them as they discuss and color, and to pray them into reality.” –John Piper, founder and teacher, desiringGod.org

The Fighter Verses Study will help guide you through key Scripture passages and arm you with tools to strengthen your faith in Christ and equip you to fight the fight of faith. The study can be used as a family devotional, small group discussion or personal study. Thought provoking questions throughout each lesson will spur you on to dig deeper into Scripture as you support and encourage one another through the battles of life. The year-long study coordinates with the verses in Set One of the Fighter Verses Bible memory program.

Sample: The Fighter Verses Study, Set One

Scope & Sequence: The Fighter Verses Study, Set One

Order your own copy today!

 

The Fighter Verses Study Resources

THE FIGHTER VERSES DISCUSSION GUIDE

The Fighter Verses Discussion GuideFor Fathers, Small Group Leaders, Teachers, or Individuals

The Discussion Guide includes 52 lessons, each based on a verse or short passage. Lessons include an introduction to the context of the verse and two or three parts looking at different sections of the text. Each part includes questions that will lead you to a better understanding of the verses. These can be answered personally or discussed in a group. At the end of each part are application questions, prayer points, and an encouragement to journal and memorize the verse.

Also available in a 13-week Study.

 

THE FIGHTER VERSES STUDY GUIDE

The Fighter Verses Study GuideFor Study Participants or Individuals

The Study Guide includes the same main content for each of the 52 lessons found in the Discussion Guide. The Study Guide helps participants in a family or small group study ponder and understand each week’s Scripture passage through guided questions which can be answered personally and discussed as a group.

Also available in a 13-week Study.

 

THE FIGHTER VERSES COLORING BOOK

The Fighter Verses Coloring BookFor Children (Ages 2-102)

The Coloring Book gives children of all ages a visual representation of each of the 52 verses along with a key truth statement to focus on. This is a great resource to help younger children engage during a family or group discussion of the study and it encourages them memorize the verse along with the whole family. These original illustrations include a blend of powerful Bible stories brought to life; children in real-life, modern-day moments; and beautiful nature scenes.

Note: The Coloring Book can be used alongside The Fighter Verses Study, by children memorizing Fighter Verses, or by itself as an encouraging, Bible-based coloring resource for children.

THE FIGHTER VERSES JOURNAL

The Fighter Verses JournalTo Record Your Reflections, Insights, and Action Steps

Use the Journal in your personal quiet time with the Lord to reflect on the Fighter Verses and record truths that have made an impact on your life, actions steps you want to take, or how God is using the verses you memorize in your everyday life. The Journal sets aside two pages for each passage and includes the verse written out along with a short paragraph to explain the verse or challenge you as you study.

Note: The Journal can be used as an extension of The Fighter Verses Study or by individuals who are simply memorizing the Fighter Verses and want to incorporate it into their personal study or devotional times.

 

 

Coming Soon: The Fighter Verses Study

Fighter Verses

The Fighter Verses StudyDo you long to have the Word of God engraved on your soul; to be instructed, counseled, and convicted by Scripture; to have your worldview shaped by the Word, and not by the World? Memorizing the Word makes it possible to meditate on the Word, which carries the potential of shaping our thinking and our affections.

The Fighter Verses Study is a year-long devotional for families, small groups, classes and individuals. Each week’s lesson is based on a verse or short passage that will equip you to “fight the fight of faith.” A series of questions, which can be answered personally or discussed in a group, will lead you to a better understanding of the verses. You will be challenged with application questions, inspired by prayer points and encouraged to journal and memorize the passage. Verses line up with Set 1 of the Fighter Verses Bible Memory program.

The Fighter Verses Study will be released in November…stay tuned for more details in the next few weeks!

Learn more about The Fighter Verses Study

View the Study Sample

Read the Scope & Sequence

 

 

A Look Inside: Open My Eyes, Part 4

Open My Eyes

Today is the final day we are taking an inside look at the themes found in Open My Eyes, our new curriculum for senior high students on studying the Bible.

  1. The need to study the Bible
  2. Understanding the genres of Biblical literature
  3. Learning inductive Bible study skills
  4. Responding to God in faith from the heart

The final five lessons of Open My Eyes focus on presenting the work of the Word in salvation and presenting the Gospel message. Students will put into practice the different inductive Bible study techniques they have learned as they look at Scripture to discover these truths.

The Word of God is effective in penetrating man’s heart and brings salvation when it is received in faith by those who have not hardened their hearts. Believers need to strive to enter God’s rest as they diligently hear, accept and respond to God’s Word.

Open My Eyes VisualAlthough we are instructed to strive to believe, John recorded the two responses people have to Jesus—acceptance or rejection. As students examine the responses of the “many”, Nicodemus, the scribes and the Pharisees, they are reminded that saving faith can only come as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing about new birth.

Open My Eyes VisualOur responses are not always what they should be, but God mercifully withholds judgment and extends His grace towards men to give them the opportunity to repent. As youth interpret the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, they learn the difference between presumption and repentance, the purpose of God’s kindness, the consequence of a failure to repent and the righteousness of God’s judgment.

Open My Eyes VisualThe process of salvation begins with election, and moves through the Gospel call, regeneration, conversion (repentance and faith), justification and adoption. Jesus accepts all who come to him, and for those who respond to God’s call to salvation, He is at work in their lives. Students will look at the responses of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus along with the context of the historical narrative around it.

Open My Eyes VisualThe final lesson of Open My Eyes concludes with the truth that God’s words are sweet to those who have a close relationship with Him. God’s promise of either blessing or curse in Deuteronomy 30:15-18, and the conditions for each, are illustrated as fulfilled in the life of Jeremiah and his fulfilled prophecy concerning Judah’s destruction. Through examining various texts, students are shown that God keeps His Word and that God’s Word sustains His people in the midst of difficulty and trial. Youth are encouraged to examine their heart attitude toward the Word of God.

Learn More About Open My Eyes

Open My Eyes Classroom KitBe sure to enter our contest to win a free copy of the Open My Eyes Classroom Kit. To enter, visit the contest post and leave a comment as directed.

If you would like to learn more about Open My Eyes, view the Curriculum Sample or place an order for your own copy of the study.

What are you most excited to teach the senior high students in your church about studying the Bible? Feel free to share in a comment below or ask any questions you have about Open My Eyes!

 

 

A Look Inside: Open My Eyes, Part 3

Open My Eyes

Open My Eyes is our brand new study for youth on studying the Bible and we are so excited to be hosting an Open My Eyes Classroom Kit Giveaway! We would love to you all but enter the contest, but why should you bother? This week we are looking at the truths taught in Open My Eyes and why it is important for teenagers to learn these lifelong skills. The study focuses on these four themes:

  1. The need to study the Bible
  2. Understanding the genres of Biblical literature
  3. Learning inductive Bible study skills
  4. Responding to God in faith from the heart

The main section of lessons in Open My Eyes looks at the genres of Biblical literature, which we discussed yesterday, and teaches the four steps of inductive Bible studies. Open My Eyes is not an exhaustive training of all inductive study methods, but rather it provides a foundation for students that can be used in any personal or formal Bible study.

1. Reading

The first step is to read the Bible. Students are encouraged to regularly read their Bible with purpose. Through careful reading and recording their thoughts and questions, they will be able to get to know God better.

2. Observing

Fifteen lessons in Open My Eyes teach youth the techniques God has given us to use that are helpful in understanding the Bible. Although the first step to good Bible reading and study is always prayer, these techniques enables students to dig deeper into the passages, analyze the context and discover the author’s intended meaning. Techniques include:

  • Open My Eyes VisualAsking questions while purposely and actively approaching a text.
  • Looking at the historical setting of the book and the customs of the time.
  • Exploring the immediate literary context of words, looking at the sentence, paragraph, chapter, book and the Bible as a whole to understand the author’s intended meaning.
  • Open My Eyes VisualUnderstanding that grammar matters. Students learn how to mark up a passage, identifying nouns, pronouns, verbs and adjectives in order to determine the meaning of the verses.
  • Biblical writers employed the literary techniques to add strength to their words. Repetition establishes a theme, listing groups thoughts and rhetorical questions add emphasis.
  • Open My Eyes VisualFigurative language in the Bible communicates spiritual truth powerfully to our hearts, but it must be handled carefully. Youth discover how similes, metaphors, personification, anthropomorphism and hyperbole emphasize key points, communicate truth in a known context and create an emotional response.
  • Identifying classifying statements and independent and dependent clauses encourages application.
  • Finding connecting words and tying together thoughts throughout a passage can unlock the meaning of a text.
  • Open My Eyes VisualObserving logical connections and learning to follow the author’s flow of thought helps youth understand passages.
  • A passage must be understood in the broader literary and theological contexts of its chapter and book, of the whole Bible, and of man’s fallen condition and redemption.
  • To understand the author’s intent and flow of thought, it is important to observe the structure of the text. Student will learn to look for transition markers to break the text into passages, and then to find the main point of the passages.
  • Open My Eyes VisualTo correctly understand a passage, it is important to observe the connections, check the context and follow the author’s flow of thought through the use of mapping.
  • Outlining a passage is another useful tool students will use to understand the author’s flow of thought.

 

3. Interpreting

Open My Eyes VisualsThe Bible is a spiritual book and must be spiritually understood through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In addition, God has given us sound principles of interpretation to help us rightly interpret the Bible and avoid falling into error. Student start by examining Psalm 25:5 to find several keys to interpretation, then they are taught and practice a series of interpretation principles. These Biblical principles are deduced from Scripture and are applicable to all people, in all cultures, at all times. The most important one is to use the Bible to interpret the Bible.

4. Applying

Open My Eyes VisualUnderstanding the Bible will not make much difference in students’ lives if they do not discover how God wants them to respond to the Scriptures using life application questions. Youth will be challenged to plan practical actions steps they can take and ask the questions: What should I think? What should I be? What should I do?

The Inductive Bible Study Handbook

The Inductive Bible Study HandbookStudents are encouraged to practice these skills both in the classroom using the Student In-Class Notebook and during the week with the Student At-Home Journal. With so much to learn, The Inductive Bible Study Handbook is a wonderful reference tool that walks through the four steps of inductive Bible study in an easy to understand way. It is an essential tool for students going through Open My Eyes to reinforce what they are learning. It can also be used by anyone wanting to strengthen their study skills for personal study or other Bible studies.

Start teaching these truths to your youth!

We are giving away a free copy of the Open My Eye Classroom Kit. Be sure to visit our contest post and leave a comment there to enter.

If you would like to learn more about Open My Eyes, view the Curriculum Sample or place an order for your own copy of the study.

 

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