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Some of the Best Advice I Can Give Teachers

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

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

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

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

(Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Hope-filled Labor in the Classroom

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

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

Here is a verse filled with hope:

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

…in the Lord your labor is not in vain!

“In the Lord”—

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

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

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

(Image courtesy of radnatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Why Students Workbooks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Before You Teach: An Encouragement and Caution

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Here is an encouragement for teachers or those considering teaching children or youth who may feel inadequate because they lack some kind of formal theological training and don’t “know” as much as they would like to:

“The gift of teaching isn’t knowing much, but helping others know more with warranted reasons and clear explanations” —John Piper

I love this quote. Ponder it for a few moments, and then ask yourself: Do I sincerely desire to help children and youth know more about God and His ways? Does my heart long to see children and youth come to saving faith in Jesus and grow in their walk with Him?

But now comes the part about providing students with “warranted reasons and clear explanations.”  That is where many of us can feel inadequate. However, that is where CDG can assist you. Our curriculum resources are written to help even a first-time teacher do just that. Go to our Curriculum link and check out our resources for various ages. Each curriculum provides sample lessons for you to view. Read through a lesson and see how the format simply and clearly guides the teacher through the biblical themes and texts.

Now, here is a caution:

Do you have a communication gifting? Have others commented on how well you speak or write? Do you find yourself dreaming about using your gifts in ministry? Wonderful! We are praying for more herald-laborers in the gospel harvest
(Matthew 9:38). Consider it strongly.

But as you consider, consider this:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).

When it comes to people being saved, it all hangs on what they believe. So when it comes to teaching, heaven and hell are in the balance. What you teach people really, really matters. You will be judged by what comes out of your mouth and your keyboard. And you will be judged more strictly than others.

…So if you want to be a teacher, wonderful! Teachers are precious gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:11). But take Paul’s warning very seriously: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).

(By Jon Bloom, “What You Teach Really, Really Matters,” at www.desiringGod.org)

Again, ask yourself about your motivation for teaching: Do I sincerely desire to help children and youth know more about God and His ways? Does my heart long to see children and youth come to saving faith in Jesus and grow in their walk with Him? Then it is also imperative to teach sound doctrine. Again, CDG is committed to helping churches and families in doing this. Here is something we want you to know about each and every curriculum and teaching resource we publish:

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 curriculum is carefully reviewed by a highly qualified and experienced theological editor.

(Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Is CDG Opposed to “Fun” in the Classroom?

The above title came to mind after watching a recent “Ask Pastor John” installment over at Desiring God regarding the question, “Does John Piper hate Fun?” Apparently, some people believe he does indeed hate “fun.” And the question, in general, peeked my interest since “fun” is often advertized as a key component in many children’s and youth ministry resources.

In looking over our stated mission, vision, philosophy, and distinctions of our children’s and youth resources, I noticed that the word “fun” is completely absent. So, one might ask, “Is CDG opposed to children and youth having fun in the classroom? Are our resources written in a manner that is meant to squash fun?” Well, we are not opposed to fun per say, but we more concerned about pursuing something much more satisfying and lasting. There’s something our children need more than fun—serious joy! In pursuing serious joy, “fun” may be a by-product—especially in the younger grades—but it is merely a foretaste meant to point our students to serious joy.

Please listen to or read Pastor John’s response to “Does John Piper Hate Fun?” Here is a portion of his answer that I think we would do well to apply in age-appropriate ways our Sunday school classrooms:

We are all, myself included, infected with the vocabulary of entertainment, the vocabulary of amusement—infected. “Having fun.” “Having a blast.” This is where we are at home. We are at home with entertainment. This is our default vocabulary resource. This is our native air. The vocabulary of earnestness and gravity and depth and weightiness and substance, these are foreign. They make us feel awkward. They are not natural to us. And that is my lament. It is not about words. We have borrowed the language of entertainment to describe sacred, weighty, serious, holy joys. And the best thing we can say to being an ambassador of the King of kings is, “It is a blast.” I regard that as tragic—and not just a vocabulary tragedy, but a spirit tragedy, a life tragedy, a huge loss in the church and in life.

…If anyone thinks that I want ministers to become boring or somber or gloomy or melancholy, let me close like this: Unbroken seriousness of a melodramatic or somber kind will inevitably communicate a sickness of soul to the great mass of people, and rightly so…The real battle in life is to be as happy in God as we can be, and that takes a very special kind of earnestness…

So, my lament is not a lament about the word fun. It is a lament about the loss of the capacity to feel and express the fun of cotton candy and roller coasters at the fair with our kids and the tear-stained joy of soul-saving ministry in the service of a crucified, triumphant King. There is a difference, brothers. There is a difference. And it would be a good thing to use words that help people feel the difference.

(by John Piper, © Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)

Strategies for Engaging Children in the Worship Service

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Sunday mornings are “all hands on deck” for our family. My husband and I are actively involved in helping our daughter and son-in-law engage their four young children in the corporate worship service. I’m happy to say that progress is being made with the 3- and 5-year-olds. The 1-year-old twins have a long way to go, but they are observing and benefiting from the experience in more ways than we can imagine. Much of this progress can be attributed to a partnership of church and parents—a church that encourages, assists, and welcomes children in the worship service, and parents who actively prepare and train their children.

That is why I am so excited that we now have these resources available to share:

For the church—“Let the Children Come to Me in Worship” (video), in which Pastor David Michael lays out a biblical vision and philosophy for encouraging children to be in the corporate worship service.

For parents—“Strategies for Engaging Children in the Worship Service” (audio), in which Sally Michael gives very practical advice for parents.

8 Tips for Helping Your Child Worship—a free brochure.

MyChurchNotebook_Cover_TNAnd last but not least a special resource for children:

My Church Notebook is designed to guide elementary aged children to participate in the service. It teaches them to actively listen to the sermon, take notes, recognize key points, ask questions, and discover more about God and His ways.

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Already Relevant

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Our young people—especially teenagers—are looking for answers. As they grow and mature, they increasingly have big questions and big concerns. They are searching for answers that make sense for both the world outside their door and their day-to-day lives. As Christian parents and teachers, we need to carefully direct them to the Bible. But there is a right way and wrong way to go about this. Consider these words by Pastor Eric McKiddie in his post “Stop Trying to Make the Bible Relevant to Teenagers”:

It’s easy to feel pressure to make the Bible seem cool and relevant to teenagers…

In my years in youth ministry, though, I’ve seen unhelpful and even harmful methods of trying to make Scripture relevant. Book publishers make Bibles look like magazines, youth workers preach a hipster Jesus, and parents confuse their child’s involvement in a fun youth group for a growing relationship with God.

Yet in our efforts to make Scripture more entertaining, we actually confirm suspicions that it is in fact boring and irrelevant. And when youth workers aren’t as cool as they think they are, their efforts end up looking cheesy, which is the last thing that will help a teenager see the Bible’s importance.

…If you want teens—whether in your home or youth group—to appreciate the Bible, the first thing you must do is trust its relevance in your own heart. That trust should come across in how you talk about what the Bible says and why it matters. Scripture testifies to its own importance for God’s people, sometimes even pointing to young people in particular (Prov. 2:1–15; Eph. 6:1–3; 2 Tim. 3:16).

Peter’s words are especially helpful: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). Notice that Peter writes, “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” That means stress over grades, sexual temptation, loneliness, awkwardness—and how to honor God in each of these areas. But also notice how the power for everything that pertains to life and godliness comes to us—through the knowledge of God. And how do we attain this vital knowledge? Through the Scriptures.

At CDG, we are striving to do just that in the teen years—to present our students with a vital knowledge of Scripture that explores essential doctrines of the Christian faith in a manner that not only informs the mind but also challenges the heart by paying attention to how these doctrines intersect with ALL aspects of everyday life. In other words, showing that the Bible is already, in and of itself, relevant.

There are least four ways in particular that our youth curricula does this:

  • Encouraging teachers to devote an adequate amount of time in spiritual preparation for each lesson so that he or she teaches from a heart that has been personally transformed by the truths of Scripture. It gives the teacher an opportunity to share personal insights and practical application. Students take notice of this.
  • A lesson content that provides examples of connections between Scripture texts and real-life scenarios.
  • A depth of teaching that does not shy away from difficult doctrines and topics: evil, suffering, gender issues, etc.
  • A “Small Group Application” section following each lesson with carefully crafted questions and discussion points to actively engage the students to see how the truths of Scripture apply to each of them in a very personal way.

Click on each of our youth curricula to find out more and see lesson samples.

Teach Me Your Way 
A Study for Youth on Surrender to Jesus and Submission to His Way

Abiding in Jesus
A Study for Youth on Trusting Jesus and Encouraging Others

Your Word Is Truth
A Study for Youth on Seeing All of Life Through the Truth of Scripture

Rejoicing in God’s Good Design
A Study for Youth on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Open My Eyes
A Study for Youth on Studying the Bible

(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Calling All Grandparents and Seniors—Again!

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I have arrived at the age in which I now qualify for a variety of “senior” discounts. The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) keeps sending me mail trying to get me to join their organization. Magazine articles, commercials, and other media want to convince me that as I enter these “golden years” I should be more and more focused on me—my interests, pleasures, and entertainments. Supposedly, I deserve to simply sit back and relax…So sad, especially if I were to apply this mentality to ministering to children and youth. Here is a post from last year that I want to highlight again:

When I first became a grandparent four years ago, people would ask: “How do you like being a grandma?” My answer typically was something like, “It’s great! All of the benefits of having children without the responsibilities.”…A bad answer for many reasons! The most important reason being:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from of old,

things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,

and the wonders that he has done.

(Psalm 78:1-4, ESV)

As a grandparent, I have a great responsibility to my own grandchildren, and to the next generation—especially the children in my church. I am to proclaim the glorious deeds of the LORD and the wonders He has done. That is my calling, no matter how old I get! Whether reading Bible stories to my grandchildren and praying with and for them, teaching in Sunday school, volunteering in nursery, being a mentor to a teen, bringing a meal to a busy young mother…the list of possibilities goes on and on. Each can be used as a means to proclaim to the next generation the glorious deeds of the LORD.

Grandparents and seniors: Don’t “check-out” during these years! You have a wonderful and crucial calling from the Lord. This fall, explore how you can invest your time and gifts for the glory of God and the joy of the next generation.

Being reminded of this has tipped the scales for me this week as I have weighed whether I should commit to teaching 1st-3rd grade Sunday school this year. Yes, I am older and yes, it will be a lot of work. But I have been given the great responsibility and the great privilege to proclaim to the next generation the glorious deeds of God (and in this case, through teaching The ABCs of God). And, as far as I can tell from Scripture, I should never, ever want to “retire” from that!

(Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

A Top Priority for Effective Ministry to Children and Youth

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Late summer is a busy time for children’s and youth ministry as church staff and volunteers gear up for the beginning of a new school year. And, increasingly, there are new and exciting resource options out there to consider—resources that claim to engage students in ways that are “relevant” to their particular age group, along with teaching methods and class resources that will keep students happily wanting to come back week after week. There’s nothing wrong with that…necessarily. How about first setting before your teachers and volunteers this sobering and instructive challenge?

If the Word does not dwell with power in us,” wrote Puritan John Owen, “it will not pass with power from us” (The Works of John Owen, vol. 16, page 76).

…what gave John Owen success in ministry was not so much his oratory skill, nor his evangelistic zeal, nor even his love for the people he shepherded. John Owen was used mightily by God in all these ways because he was a man characterized by personal holiness.

…Let’s consider whether we have allowed contemporary culture to infiltrate our minds and hearts. Have we inverted Christ’s desire that the church be in the world by bringing the world into the church instead? If we take an honest look, perhaps we’ll discover that we are contributing to this trend. Rather than relying solely on the sufficiency of God’s Word, are we employing counselors in our churches who apply worldly methods of psychological analysis to address felt needs? Have we adopted worldly means to reach the seekers [or picture some teens you know] who sit skeptically in the back pews rather than offering them the truths of the Gospel and the Christian life? Faithful teaching of God’s Word is vanishing. Are we among the number that have replaced preaching with elaborate drama productions aimed at entertaining?

…Rather than devoting much time to developing innovative amusements for the worship hour, Owen made private communion with God a top priority…The Word of God is the means employed by the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ, so if preaching and evangelism are to be effective, private communion with God in His Word must be more important than discovering the latest ministry technique.

These words are from an article titled “Recovering the Priority of Personal Holiness” by Pastor Alistair Begg. What I have quoted here does not do justice to the article! You can read it in its entirety here.

What especially struck me as a teacher was the last paragraph. During the week, as I prepare for the upcoming Sunday school hour…

  • Do I prioritize private communion with God over and above time spent developing innovative amusements for the Sunday school hour?
  • Do I prioritize meditating in the Word of God as the means employed by the Holy Spirit to transform me into the image of Christ so that my teaching is flowing out of personal holiness over and above relying upon some kind of ministry technique?

What might God be pleased to do this coming year if we were to recover the priority of personal holiness in our ministry to children and youth?

(Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

28 Promises Your Children Can Depend Upon

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Speaking of hymns (see yesterday’s post), one hymn I learned early on was Standing On the Promises by R. Kelso Carter. The hymn included these memorable and reassuring words:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God.

But though I had the words and tune memorized, I don’t remember anyone actually describing and explaining what these promises were. What was I supposed to be standing on? Well here are 28 promises found in the Bible—all given by a faithful God who ALWAYS keeps His promises—that our children should know and can depend upon:

God promises…

  • salvation for everyone who truly repents and believes in Jesus.
  • eternal punishment (hell) for everyone who does not repent and believe in Jesus. (Yes, our children need to know that some promises are dreadful!)

For God’s children, those who trust in Jesus, God’s promises include…

  • God will be with you everywhere, at all times, watching over your life.
  • nothing can separate you from God’s love.
  • complete forgiveness when you confess your sins.
  • God will complete His work in you, making you more and more like Jesus.
  • you will bear fruit (good works).
  • God will hear your prayers.
  • He will guide you to know what is right.
  • God will provide for your needs.
  • He will not withhold any good thing that is good for your life.
  • God will fight for you and act on your behalf.
  • He is slow to anger and is patient with you.
  • God will give you strength.
  • though you may stumble, God will sustain and hold you.
  • God will discipline you for your good because He loves you.
  • He plans good for you, and He brings new mercies everyday.
  • God will be with you in hard times.
  • He will not bring any unnecessary suffering into your life.
  • If you remain steadfast under trial, you will be rewarded.
  • God will keep you from ultimate harm and guard your soul and faith.
  • He will deliver you from all your troubles.
  • God will end suffering for His children and turn it to joy.
  • All things will work together for your good.
  • God will never forsake you.
  • He will never forget His promises.
  • God is not slow in keeping His promises—His timing is perfect.
  • eternal life—living forever with Jesus!

Here are two wonderful resources to help your children learn and explore the biblical foundation of these promises, as well as how they are meant to be embraced and applied to our lives.

Curriculum:

Faithful to All His Promises: A Study for Children on the Promises of God
Grade Range: 2nd Grade-4th Grade, 40 lessons
Children will not simply learn about some of God’s promises, but rather, they will discover what it means to trust in those promises, which are God’s gift to us, not something we deserve. Faithful to All His Promises begins by teaching children what a promise is, what makes God trustworthy with these promises, and who these promises are for. Then children get to explore some specific promises from God to see how He has been and will be faithful to each of those promises.

Family devotional book:

CPGPGod’s Promises
This book is adapted from the curriculum and is a read-to and read-along book for parents with early elementary-age children. Each chapter ends with personal application and activities, and includes full-color illustrations. (120 pages)

 

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