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Mommy… Daddy… I’m Sad

Mommy... Daddy... I'm Sad

In between deep sobs, the voice of a caring mother is heard. “Gilbert, what’s wrong?”
With tears streaming down his face he replies, “Mommy, I’m sad.”
“Gilbert, why are you sad?”
“I can’t find nite-nite!” …Or, “I want to play with my cars longer.” Or, “I don’t want to leave Grandma and Grandpa’s house.”

To my 2-year-old nephew who is learning how to express his emotions in words, these sad situations feel very hard to him. Unfortunately, there will soon be a day when his tears and sorrow do not stem from something as simple as a lost blanket or shortened play time.

Your child may be saying “I’m sad” as they try to figure out why kids were mean to them at school. Why did my friend lie to me? Why does mom have cancer? Why was dad laid off from his job? Why does my sister have down syndrome? Why did our house get flooded in a hurricane? Why is there poverty and hunger in the world? What do words like terrorism, bombings, mass shootings and racial tensions mean? Why are Christians being killed for their faith? Why does God let bad things happen in the world? Why did God do this to me? Does God love me?

It is not a question of if your children will experience suffering, but when will your child experience suffering…and will his faith be strengthened or weakened through it? 

In a recent Ask Pastor John post, John Piper shared these three steps to prepare your children for suffering:

1. Teach your son a glorious, all-encompassing biblical worldview that puts suffering in its proper place.
2. Discipline him with appropriate firmness, and require of him self-denial.

3. Model for him trust and joy in the midst of your own suffering and sorrow.

As Pastor Piper expounded on these three steps, several points stood out to me. The first reinforces what my first grade class is studying in The ABCs of God. This month, they are learning that God is wise—He causes everything to workout perfectly; God is almighty—He is all-powerful; and God is sovereign—He has the right and wisdom and power to do all that He pleases. Here’s how Pastor Piper explains it:

God is sovereign, and nothing can stop him from doing what he wants to do most. “I am God, and there is none like me . . . saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:9-10). He is stronger than the weather. He is stronger than storms and floods and lightning. He is stronger than animals: big ones that can attack you like lions and little teeny microscopic ones you can’t even see that can make you sick and even kill you. He is stronger than all the enemies that we have. He is stronger than everything. Children need to hear this. They get it. They will embrace it more quickly than we do, and they can handle the mysteries. Yes, they can. Don’t ever give the impression to your children that suffering exists because God is helpless.

John Piper Quote on SufferingKids do get it. Children studying My Purpose Will Stand learn it this way: “God is present and active in all creation. His eye is watching, His hand is working to uphold and govern all creation, to fulfill all His purposes for His glory and the good of His children.” God did not wind us up like a clock and step back to watch. He is not surprised by the decisions we make. God is not helpless. He has planned and is in control of every detail of our lives, including our suffering.

It is also crucial to teach children how God displays his glory through the Gospel as they learn to understand why suffering exists and why it effects them. I am thankful these following truths are woven into each of our curricula.

Make the gospel crystal-clear: God sent his Son into the world to suffer with us and for us. This means that, if we trust him, none of our suffering is punishment for sin. Christ bore all of our punishment for sin. That is the basis of our acceptance with God and our hope for heaven. And there will be no more suffering there. All the suffering, therefore, that comes into the life of a Christian is not because God is punishing him in his wrath—oh, let children understand this!—but, rather, it is God’s fatherly discipline for the sake of holiness as Hebrews 12:3-11 and 1 Peter 1:5 says.

Therefore, in all of our suffering, God is good. God is wise. God is loving, even though it’s painful, and he has purposes for us (Romans 8:28). We never explain suffering by saying God is helpless or that Satan got the upper hand or that there are mere accidents in the world. We always handle suffering, our suffering by saying, even though we don’t understand all the answers for why this particular suffering came or that particular suffering came at this particular time or this particular intensity—we don’t understand those particulars—nevertheless, we do understand what God has taught us; namely, that he is sovereign, that he is good, and that he always has purposes for our everlasting joy.

I strongly encourage you to listen to or read Pastor Piper’s entire post: How Do We Prepare Our Children for Suffering. He closes with these words:

The greatest challenge of parenting is not primarily remembering all the things that should be taught in the catechism, but primarily being a parent growing in grace and humility and trust and joy in all the ups and downs of life. Few things will have a greater power in our children’s lives to help them suffer as Christians.

Recommended Resources

If you would like to look at specific resources that help teach children about the sovereignty of God, the glorious truth of the Gospel and how to deal with suffering, we recommend the following:

God’s Providence: A family devotional guide

My Purpose Will Stand: A study for 6th grade students on the providence of God

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel: A resource for parents with 10 family devotions

Catechism: Out of Date or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths: A seminar by Sally Michael

 
 

Romeo and Juliet. Gospel and Doctrine.

Romeo and Juliet. Gospel and Doctrine...and the importance of catechism

Simplifying the Gospel is like simplifying the story of Romeo and Juliet. If you simply tell the story as “Two mixed-up teenagers fall in love and end up dead,” you loose the depth of the story. The background of the feuding families, the secret marriage, Romeo’s banishment and the sleeping potion Juliet took gives the story meaning and heart.

If we fail to teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation, we remove the depth and meaning from their faith. If all they have is simplistic Bible truths—just love Jesus and believe in the cross—how will our children’s faith stand strong when they are confronted with the skepticism of our culture?

In our zeal to preach the gospel, we can often overlook or ignore the doctrinal foundations that lead to an understanding of the preciousness of the cross. In our zeal to evangelize, we must not forget that the main purpose of the organized church is to make disciples who will evangelize the nations.

One of the best ways to teach children solid doctrine is through catechesis. This is an intense, intentional, systematic, doctrinal teaching which imparts our beliefs about God, our communion with God and our obedience with God. Catechetical instruction normally employs the Socratic method of teaching through questions and answers. By utilizing the art of asking questions to stimulate critical thinking, the resulting discussion can encourage reasoning, the discovery of logical relationships, the illumination of further understanding and ultimately, the embracing of the truths discovered.

There are a variety of catechisms which present a series of questions and answers pertaining to Christian faith. Almost all of them are based on the creed and confessions of the church and they communicate these truths—what the church believes to be true about God, the Bible, the message of the Bible and its major themes about man, Christ and salvation.

Catechetical teaching is not boring, rote memorization. It is designed to not only teach the mind, but to effect our heart, affections and actions. Studying a catechism with your child will encourage you both in critical thinking, discussion and investigation of the Bible. If taught properly, it will not leave your children with parroted answers to random questions, but an understanding, learning and embracing of the truth of the Gospel and the doctrines of the Bible.

To learn more about catechism and how to teach it, watch to Sally Michael’s complete seminar:

Catechism: Out of Date or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths

Watch Seminar

Download Seminar Handouts

Sally Michael Quote on Catechism

The Best Education…

Charles Spurgeon Quote

 

 

 

 

Round-Up: Encouragement for Teachers and Parents of Youth

Youth Ministry

Here is a collection of our favorite articles written in the past few years to encourage youth pastors, mentors and parents. Check out the links below for advice on partnering with parents, developing a vision for your ministry, fighting the fight of faith and planting roots of faith that will last beyond the teen years.

Youth Ministry as a Bridge

What Will Win Your Youth?

Centering Youth on the Word

A Genuine Parent and Youth Ministry Partnership

The Importance of Parents in Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry: Set Apart or A Part

Already Relevant

Abusing “Jesus Loves Me”?

We Need the Wisdom of the Past

Preparing Teens for the Great Battle

 

 

VIDEO: “Believing the Whole Counsel of God: How Our Children Can Know the Bible is True” by John Piper

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

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

Piper: Believing the Whole Counsel of God

What must take place in order for children to know that the Bible is true, and for them to believe the whole counsel of God? John Piper, seeking to answer that question, begins his message by defining what the whole counsel of God is. 

He notes that Paul was so consumed by his responsibility to declare the whole counsel of God, that at the end of his ministry he could say with confidence to the Ephesian elders, “I am innocent of the blood of all” (Acts 20:26).

Yet the declaration of the whole does not ensure that it will be embraced. Many saw but did not “see.” They saw with their physical eyes…but did not see with the eyes of their heart. What they should have seen…and what they were to see and we are to see is a “peculiar glory.” A peculiar glory that was and is revealed in…

  1. the creation.
  2. the incarnation.
  3. the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Piper explains why the Bible is self-authenticating in each of these areas. And when the miracle of new birth happens, whether for children or adults, they will say, “I cannot not believe that God did not make that.”

Dr. Piper also made four observations/encouragements for those who influence the next generation:

  1. Children begin believing the Bible because their parents believe the Bible. 
  2. Build as much Bible into them as you can.
  3. At some point, God moves in His elect children to open their eyes, by a supernatural power, and their hearts perceive a peculiar glory of God.
  4. As they mature, they have a growing capacity to see and savor Christ, and we have a great responsibility to connect them with the astonishing, peculiar glory.

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. How did Dr. Piper define the whole counsel of God?
  2. Do you agree with his argument that as interesting and helpful as apologetics can be, there has to be something more at the root of belief then answers to questions?
  3. If only by a miracle we see with the eyes of our heart, what role does the whole counsel of God play in the miracle?
  4. Regarding the ministry to children in our churches and home, is there a shift away from teaching the whole counsel of God? If so, why do you think so? If not, what evidence would you offer?
  5. Discuss this quote from Jonathan Edwards: “Unless men can may come to a reasonable solid, persuasion and conviction of the truth of the gospel by the internal evidences of it mainly, by a sight of its glory, tis impossible that those who are illiterate and unacquainted with history should have any thorough or effectual conviction of it at all.” How does this encourage you in your ministry to children?
  6. Dr. Piper ended his message by saying this about children: “If they see the glory…they cannot not believe. So, what are practical ways in which we can help our children see the ‘peculiar glory’?”

 

Further Reading

What’s Your Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God by Jill Nelson

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

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

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

“Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform” by Albert Mohler

 

Practical Tips and Resources for Worship Leaders

Practical Tips and Resources for Worship Leaders

Read Part 1 of this post: A Vision for Leading Children in Worship

Leading children in worship is different than leading adults in worship because children differ in their ability to:

  • Understand God, themselves, and their relationship to Him.
  • Understand language, ideas and how to talk about God.

So worship leaders must lead in ways that are developmentally age appropriate. Make sure to check out the curriculum introduction because the authors often give insights into what would be age appropriate. And leaders must take into account children who are not yet believers, as well as give thought how to nurture the faith of the children by example and introduce children to a language by which they may learn to worship rightly now and in the future.

So how do we plan a time of worship with children?

  1. Pray for guidance and help by the Holy Spirit (Psalm 127:1, John 14:26)
  2. Be well acquainted with the overall scope of the curriculum and specific lesson for the day.
  3. Determine the focus of the worship time (reflective, repentant, responsive to the lesson, rejoicing in our great God…)
  4. Know what the lyrics express and consider:
    1. Do they fit well with the lesson, curriculum, and focus of worship?
    2. Are they filled with big and glorious truths, while still being understandable to the children?
    3. Do they build faith in our amazing God and the wonders of redemption?
    4. Will they benefit the children if they sing them over and over during the week? During the next year? During the next 10 years? Are they worth memorizing?

What kinds of songs should be considered?

  1. Favorite Sunday school songs of substance
  2. New, fresh worship songs written specifically for children (Psalm 96:1)
  3. Scripture songs (check out the Fighter Verses songs and the Let the Little Children Sing Scripture songbook)
  4. Traditional hymns
  5. Songs from your all-church gatherings
  6. Songs from other cultures (perhaps have missionaries teach a song)

Remember, words are important, so take time to help them understand what they are singing.

A Sample Format for Planning Worship

  • Call to Worship: Helps us draw near and vertically focus on God
  • Praise and Adoration: Songs directed to God or about His character
  • Teaching: Teach new songs, share hymn story, lyric explanations, hand motions, etc.
  • Response: Songs of commitment, blessing, witness, and prayer

Sample Worship Format

Don’t forget to include prayer and Scripture (either read or recited) in your plan.

Be intentional in your planning. Determine to plan and lead worship in a way that helps the children grow in their knowledge, love, and trust of God.

If you have a large age range in your class, you might consider songs that echo or repeat phrases (e.g., This is the Day, Rejoice in the Lord Always, Humble Yourself in the Sight of the Lord…) You could have the older children help lead hand motions, hold visuals, or use rhythm or accompaniment instruments. It is a great opportunity to teach them about what worship teams do and why.

Make sure to prepare lyric sheets/overheads or visuals for younger children (following copyright laws) ahead of time. Show up early. Have instruments ready and tuned prior to the worship time. Open and close with prayer. Let students see you with an open Bible. That communicates more than you might think.

Learn More

To learn more about worship leading, I encourage you to listen to my seminar, Leading Children in God-Centered Worship, where I share more examples and practical suggestions. For specific song sources, check the end of the seminar handout.

Seminar Audio: Leading Children in God-Centered Worship

Seminar Handout: Leading Children in God-Centered Worship

Special thanks to Pam Grano for developing many of the original ideas shared here.

Read Part 1 of this post: A Vision for Leading Children in Worship

VIDEO: “Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform” by Albert Mohler

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

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

Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform

In this message, Dr. Albert Mohler connects our need as parents to “hold fast to the whole counsel of God under pressure to conform,” to the experience of the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land. 

In Deuteronomy, Moses gave his last address to God’s chosen people. He addressed a generation that had not lived under the cruelties of Egypt, nor experienced their culture. Now on the brink of the Promise land, Moses knew what was at stake for them and their children. Would they default to and become like the dominate Canaanite culture, or would they hold fast, choose to follow God, and experience the blessings and favor He gives to His children? Dr. Mohler, teaching from Deuteronomy 6, uses three words to encourage and challenge Christian parents and children’s ministry workers on the importance of 1) teaching the whole doctrine of God, and instructing with 2) discipline and 3) diligence to battle against the pressure that we and our children will face to conform to the culture of the day.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How would you compare the culture of the Canaanites to the culture of our day?
  2. Why did Dr. Mohler emphasize the need for teaching specific doctrine?
  3. Discuss Dr. Mohler’s quote, “We have to make sure they [our children] find themselves in the storyline of Scripture, knowing themselves in that story, otherwise they are going to be in some other story.” As a follow-up to this question, in what ways could you help your children see themselves in the story of the Exodus?
  4. Dr. Mohler, after making the point that the cultural pressure to conform is not new, said, “Christian parents have had to be faithful in whatever culture we’ve lived in. It is so pervasive, they exaggerate the newness but underestimate the urgency.” Have you fallen prey to the newness, or have you underestimated the urgency to teach your children the whole counsel of God? If so, what practical steps could you take?
  5. Dr. Mohler, in reference the “whole” counsel of God said, “no one is upset with the Golden Rule…It’s the word whole that is a big problem.” What cultural norms or trends are increasingly in conflict with Scripture?

 

Albert Mohler Quote

 

Further Reading

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

39 Questions and the Whole Counsel of God

Gospel “Poles” and the Whole Counsel of God

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

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

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

 

 

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

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

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

Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation

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

We must declare the whole counsel of God…

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

 

 

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

For Further Thought

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

 

We must declare the whole counsel of God

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

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

 

 

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.)

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