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Intergenerational Teaching: Why and How?

Intergenerational Teaching: Why and How?

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.—Psalm 145:3-4

Intergenerational classes are a wonderful way to gather families to learn together. It is not the last resort when babysitters are not available, but an opportunity for both children and adults to be teachers and both to be learners.

I think God’s intent for the generations is that we should bless one another, support one another, encourage one another and enrich each other’s lives.

Intergenerational doesn’t mean dumbing down material so that children can understand it but the adults are bored. But it also doesn’t mean teaching a normal adult class with the hope that the children present may get a tidbit.

True intergenerational teaching conscientiously takes into account that there are learners of different ages and experiences present in the classroom and seeks to teach the hearts of all of them. It’s beneficial to the adults and to the children because the uniqueness of the situation provides some opportunities for both generations to understand the material differently and to benefit from a different perspective.

A positive experience in an intergenerational class can encourage a dad who has never lead a family devotional time to launch out at home in bringing the Word to his family.—Sally Michael

Intergenerational_Quote2Intergenerational classes work ideally for parents with children in first grade and older who can read and participate in class activities. Junior and senior high students can be included, but teachers and parents will need to be careful to ensure the material and illustrations engaging for them or provide them with extra responsibility to help lead in class. It works best for preschool and kindergarten students to remain in a separate age-specific class so parents’ focus can be on having deeper spiritual conversations with their older children rather than trying to keep the youngest ones engaged. These mixed generation learning environments can be introduced to a variety of settings such as Sunday morning or evening services, Wednesday night programs, summer Sunday school classes, family camps or small group settings.

In her seminar Intergenerational Teaching: Why and How?, Sally shares these and other benefits to an intergenerational teach model:

  1. Relational: It can remove barriers between age groups crumble and provide an opportunity to be the church—a united body of believers.
  2. Cognitive: Children can think outside the box and provide different perspectives for the adults as well as ask questions that adults never think of or are reluctant to ask. This helps bring insight and understanding to the material for all ages.
  3. Conversational: Good intergeneration learning experiences can open communication between adults and children and prompt engaging spiritual conversations.
  4. Emotional: Little children can remind adults to learn with their hearts as well as with their heads.
  5. Simplicity: Adults can get caught up in fine tuning theological points and children can help remind them of the important, basic truths like Jesus died for sinners or love one another.
  6. Application and Response: Seeing the eager acceptance and concrete responses of children is a wonderful way in which adults can be challenged to respond in obedience and faith to the truth.

Listen to the full seminar by Sally to learn more about the benefits of intergenerational teaching, how to teach the intergeneration curriculum from Children Desiring God and practical tips on how to adapt your existing curriculum for an intergenerational setting.

Listen Now: Intergeneration Teaching: Why and How?

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SallyMichaelSally Michael is a co-founder of Children Desiring God, where she has a passion for developing God-centered resources for the spiritual development of children in the home and church. She is an author of curriculum, parenting resources and children’s books published by Children Desiring God and P&R Publishing. Sally and her husband David have two daughters, Amy and Kristi, and three grandchildren.

Do they See Jesus as Master and Lord?

Do they See You as Master and Lord?

Submission to authority is one of the primary disciplines that parents must teach their children. Even in submitting to the seemingly little commands of parents, children learn important truths that will better prepare them for a fulfilling and happy life. However, the main reason we should teach our children about submission is to help them understand the necessity of submitting to Jesus and His absolute, good, wise, and loving authority. Furthermore, we must teach and model that submission to Jesus and His ways does not quash our joy—it enables our joy.

As parents and teachers, we ought to be very careful and intentional in communicating this important concept to our children and students. As we rightfully impress upon them their need for Jesus’ redeeming work—trusting in Him alone as Savior—we must not neglect to also highlight Jesus as Master and Lord. All who truly trust in Jesus are called to learn from Him, submit to Him, and follow in all His ways. This is a life-long endeavor for the Christian. It is a call to grace-dependent, Spirit-empowered discipleship.

Getting Practical—Here are a few texts to read and discuss, and questions to ask your children:

  • Jesus’ Authority—Read Matthew 28:18; Revelation 4:11; 19:16. What do these verses tell us about Jesus’ authority? Could someone say that they love and trust Jesus as their Savior, but they don’t need to actually follow and obey Him as their Master and Lord? Why wouldn’t this make sense? Read and talk about 1 John 2:3, 6. 
  • Learning from Jesus—Point out that the best teachers teach their students by not only teaching with words, but also by example. Ask: Can you think of some of the things that Jesus taught His disciples? Some of His commands? (Also, you could read a few verses from Luke 6:27-28, 35-36) In what ways did Jesus give us an example to follow, too? How did He do what He commanded? Why is this helpful for His disciples? But is it still difficult for us to follow at times? Why? Are there things in our life that make us less or more likely to want to listen and obey? Is there anything that can help us? 
  • Jesus is a Compassionate Master and Teacher—Briefly share an example of a harsh teacher or bossone who “lorded over” his students or employees by making unreasonable demands. Is this the type of Master and Lord that Jesus is? Read and talk about Matthew 11:28-29. Do you see Jesus as a kind of Master and Lord? What does this show us about who He is and what He is like? What does He also know and understand about us? Does that mean He doesn’t care about our obedience? What is a yoke? Do Jesus’ disciples still need a yoke? Why? But what kind of yoke does He give His disciples? How can this help us see the goodness of submitting to Jesushow is submission for our good? 
  • Submitting Your Will to Jesus—Read and talk about Matthew 16:24. Give an example of a command from Jesus that is often hard to submit to. Suppose your brother or sister took your new game to a friends’ house without asking you. When he or she brought the game back it was missing pieces. What might be your first reaction? What if he or she says she’s really sorry and will go back and find the pieces? Jesus says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Why might it be hard to submit to this command? What does it show us about our hearts? Is submitting to Jesus optional—something to do only when it’s not too difficult or when we feel like it? When we are struggling to submit to Jesus, what might be helpful to remember about Him? 
  • Following Jesus Wherever He Leads Us—Read the story of Simon meeting Jesus from Luke 5:1-6. At the end of the story, Jesus called for Simon, James, and John to follow Him. What did they leave behind in order to follow Jesus? [everything] What does that mean? Explain that following Jesus means that you love Him most of all so that you listen, obey, and follow wherever He leads you. Does Jesus lead His disciples along the exact same circumstances? Point out that Jesus later gave Simon the name, Peter. Does anyone know what Peter did later in life as a follower of Jesus? [became the leader of the early church, suffered persecution for being a Christian, etc.] Did Jesus also give us an example of enduring great suffering? Peter followed Jesus’ example—even to his death. Can you think of other people who followed Jesus even through very hard circumstances? How can their example help us? What gave them the strength and determination to keep following Jesus?

Teach and Model Submission

 

Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful Heart

Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful Heart

Pastor David Michael recently shared these words from C.H. Spurgeon during Children Desiring God staff devotion time. I wonder what impact it would have on our parenting and teaching ministries if we carefully reflected on Spurgeon’s remarks and questions regarding Psalm 103:2—“Forget not all his benefits.”

It is a delightful and profitable occupation to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints, and to observe

his goodness in delivering them,
his mercy in pardoning them,
and his faithfulness in keeping his covenant with them.

But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to remark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least

as full of God,
as full of his goodness and of his truth,
as much a proof of his faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before?

Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful HeartWe do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that he wrought all his mighty acts, and showed himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare his arm for the saints who are now upon the earth.

Let us review our own lives. Surely in these we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God.

Have you had no deliverances?
Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence?
Have you walked through no fires unharmed?
Have you had no manifestations?
Have you had no choice favours?
The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart, hath he never listened to you and answered your requests?
That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things,” hath he never satiated you with fatness?
Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures?
Have you never been led by the still waters?

Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old.

Let us, then, weave his mercies into a song.
Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus.
Let our souls give forth music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David’s harp, while we praise the Lord whose mercy endureth for ever.

(The “Morning” devotion from Morning and Evening for  July 9, retrieved at www.spurgeon.org)

Praying for the Next Generation and Your Volunteers

Praying for the Next Generation and Your Volunteers

Have you prayed for your children today? Do you only pray for them when you are with them? How often do you pray for or with your students on Sunday morning?

“It is easy for us to set our days on cruise control and completely push the Lord out. Prayer is our only vehicle that will give us wisdom, strength and the correct words to reach the next generation.” —Kristin Gilbert

In this seminar, Praying for the Next Generation and Your Volunteers, Kristin Gilbert discusses some of the obstacles we face that prevent us from having a fervent prayer life such as wandering minds, fear, laziness and busyness. She equips you with practical steps to fight these obstacles and encourages you to pray through specific areas of your children’s ministry as she shares testimonies of answered prayers in her church.

“When I step into my office, the first thing I do, before I open up my computer and see the list of emails, is to pray for 15 minutes. Schedule time into your day to pray.” —Kristin Gilbert

Not only is it important for you as a children’s ministry leader or parent to spend time praying for the next generation, you also have the opportunity to be a role model to your children as you teach them to pray. Kristin shares a simple way small group leaders or parents can walk children through prayer based on the ACTS prayer model—adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.

  1. I love you, Lord. Why do we love the Lord?
  2. I am sorry. What have I done that I need to ask forgiveness for?
  3. Thank you. Thank the Lord for who He is, His forgiveness and answered prayers.
  4. Please. We have a God who wants us to come to him and ask him for things.

“If you teach children to pray, they will do it. We need to be role models of this.”—Kristin Gilbert

Listen Now

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Tab6_9_KristinGilbertKristin serves as the Director of Children’s Ministries at College Park Church in Indianapolis. Her prayer is that the next generation would passionately follow Jesus! She desires to come alongside the church body to continue to lay a foundation of truth for the next generation to build their faith upon. Kristin enjoys engaging with the children and volunteers she works with on Sunday mornings and encouraging them to fix their eyes on our One True God.

Walking Children Through Prayer

Passing the Baton in the Midst of a Hostile Crowd

Passing the Baton in the Midst of a Hostile Crowd

Parents and ministry leaders, here is something to ponder:

Passing on the [Christian] faith has been compared to handing off a baton in a relay race. And there are many things to commend that analogy to us. There is a real gospel—the baton—to pass on. It must be passed on individually. The one with the baton has to hold it out, and the one receiving the baton has to reach back for it and close his hand around it. There is a time to pass on the baton, the exchange zone, which does not last forever. All of these are excellent pictures to help us think through this subject.

There is a problem with this illustration, however. We are not handing off the baton at a friendly track meet—rather this exchange takes place on a battlefield! We are attempting to pass on this baton of the gospel while we and our children are being shot at! And what about those observing in the stands? A few are cheering us on, but many in the stands—the world—are laughing at our child’s attempt to run the race.

(Chap Bettis, “The Disciple-Making Parent—A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ  copyright©2016, page 8)

Rather than be discouraged by this, we as parents and ministry leaders should use this as motivation to prepare our children and students to face the challenge. We must arm them with God’s Truth and point them to complete dependence on His sovereign grace. Furthermore, we should provide them with a distinctive, unwavering biblical worldview by teaching them…

  • that the Bible is absolute Truth and is totally reliable and sufficient.
  • a deep and robust understanding of God’s nature and character.
  • that biblical truth is relevant to everything in life.
  • to evaluate all things through the truth of Scripture: biblical discernment.
  • the enlightening and transforming truth of the Gospel.
  • that a biblical worldview is meant to point them to true, lasting joy.
  • to boldly proclaim God’s truth in a spirit of humility.
  • to expect opposition and to be prepared to stand firm.

Basic Biblical Worldview Truths for Children

On this last point, it’s important that we do the following to encourage them and “cheer them on.”

  • Point out evidence of God’s grace in their lives. Use it to encourage them.
  • Remind them of Jesus and others who have experienced ridicule and have been hated by the world.
  • Pray with and for them on a regular basis.
  • Find your children and teens some older, mature Christians to be mentors.
  • Keep them in the Word and look for devotionals and other resources that will serve to increase their confidence in God.
  • Instruct them in Christian apologetics, providing a vigorous defense of the faith—reasons and arguments for why we believe what we believe.

For a further explanation of each point and practical tips for application at various ages, download this free handout from the seminar, “Helping Children Develop a Biblical Worldview.”

 

 

Teaching Our Children to Serve God in the “Ordinary”

Teaching Our Children to Serve God in the Ordinary

I grew up with a very narrow view of what it means to serve God. Life was separated into two main spheres—the spiritual and the secular. Service to God was therefore limited to using ones gifts and abilities within the church or a specific type of Christian ministry—the “spiritual realm.” Then, as I entered adulthood, there was an additional thrust, namely, that to be a faithful Christian one must do great things for God and go out and change the world for Christ. Sounds like a wonderful challenge to pass on to our children and students, doesn’t it…

Now consider this from Pastor Nick Batzig:

A “change the world” mentality often ironically serves as a catalyst for discontentment or undue guilt. The common failures and frustrations experienced in the mundane day-in and day-out aspects of life tend to leave those—who had hoped for more importance—jaded or callused as the years progress… 

Will of God Doer…The reality is that there was only one true and lasting world changer; and, He had to be mocked by men, nailed to the cross, subject to the powers of hell and fall under the wrath of God in order to bring about permanent and lasting change in the world. Whenever we are tempted to want to “think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think,” we must remember that the way up is the way down, that he who would be greatest must become least and that the way to the crown is the way of the cross. We must seek to become a “will of God doer” rather than a “world changer”—even if that means changing dirty diapers for the glory of God. 

(From, “To Be a Diaper Changer,”  www.reformation21.org)

Please read the entire article to more fully understand the context and main point. (For example, he is not calling us to set low expectations in our walk with the Lord or our desire to see the world impacted for the kingdom.)

This is an important topic to discuss with our children, especially as they grow older and begin to consider a vocation to pursue. Here are some points you could explore with your children to help them understand a biblical view of service to God.

  • We have been created in a special way—in the image and likeness of God.
  • We have been created for a special purpose—to glorify God.
  • God has given His children a variety of abilities to be used in service to Him.
  • Whatever work we do it should be done with the mindset of serving Jesus.
  • Service to God blesses us and is used by God to help others and further His kingdom.

Key Texts to Read Together

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.—Colossians 3:23-24

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Possible Discussion Questions

  • All of Our Gifts and Abilities Are from God and Should Be Used in Service to God—Point out that some people brag about their gifts and abilities. Does anyone have a right to boast about an ability they have? Read and talk about 1 Corinthians 4:7b. How should knowing this shape our attitude toward the things we are good at? Because all our abilities are from God, and Jesus is Lord and Master, who deserves our service? Do you think of God “owning” your abilities? Do you tend to mainly think of ways to serve yourself and own interests? Can you think of a way you could serve God this week with an ability you have? 
  • All True Service to God is Important—Review Colossians 3:23-24. Ask: Suppose you volunteer to clean in the church kitchen for a dinner event. You do it gladly, work hard, and with a mindset of serving Jesus with your abilities. What if someone said, “That’s just kitchen help. You’re not doing anything important.” Would that be true? Recall 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. 
  • God is Good and Wise in the Abilities He Gives Us—Read Matthew 25:14-26a and ask: Did the three servants receive the same amount of money from their master? Why did he give them different amounts? [He gave to each according to their ability.] God is wise and good in the abilities He gives His children. Some people will have more or greater abilities than others, but all service to God is important. (Recall that even though the first two servants were given different amounts, they both entered into the joy of their master. We should use even the smallest abilities in service to God. And, as we grow and mature, God often gives His children more responsibilities. 
  • We Need to Recognize and Develop the Abilities God Has Given UsSuppose you want to learn to play a musical instrument. After two lessons you say, “I’m no good at this. I’m going to give up and quit!” Emphasize that, especially when you are young, your job is to try a variety of different things and work hard at them… “as unto the Lord.” You are to work heartily doing your schoolwork, chores, and music or sports practice as if you are doing it for Jesus. It could be, that over time and with prayer, guidance from the Holy Spirit, and the encouragement of others, God gives you a love and proficiency in doing something—making clear how you can use these abilities in service to Him by helping others and helping to further His kingdom. 
  • We Need God’s Power in Order to Serve Him—Ask your child or teen to recall a time when he or she worked really hard at something. Ask: Are there times that you don’t give your best effort because you are lazy or something feels beyond your strength? Review 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 and then 1 Peter 4:10-11. According to these verses, can we serve God just by our own efforts and strength? Why is it important to recognize our need and who supplies it? Do you ask God for the strength needed to serve Him? 
  • No One Can Serve Two Masters—Read and talk about Jesus’ words from Matthew 6:24. Point out you could substitute other words for “money” in this verse. What are some other things people serve? [yourself, sports, food, play time, games, electronic gadgets, etc.] In what ways to people “serve” these things—in what ways do they let these things “master” them? Is this right? Is there anything in your life that wrongly acts as a master to you and turns you away from serving God? What steps could you take this week to grow in devotion to God?

 

 

Preemptive Wisdom + Drawing for a Free Devotional!

Preemptive Wisdom

In a recent “Ask Pastor John” post, John Piper addressed a question from a young man—a teenager— regarding his desire to be well-liked and popular while, at the same time, being concerned about being godly. Here was part of John’s response:

Preemptive WisdomI think being driven by coolness is deadly. The problem with wanting to be cool in our culture is that cool is almost always defined by the fool. So, it is almost always: Cool = Fool.

If you want to know what a fool is, read the book of Proverbs in the Bible. In fact, I think every teenager, especially boys, should read Proverbs over and over and over again, because of how clearly the Proverbs expose the stupidity of much that is considered cool…

You are a human being created in the image of God almighty, destined to live forever and ever and ever in hell or in heaven. Nothing could be more stupid than to think that your significance, your worth, your greatness, your coolness is in what people think about your outward appearance instead of what they think about your inner reality that is going to live forever and ever and ever. So, be one of those teenagers who wakes up from the lunacy of the cattle drive mentality where the whole herd of cattle is going right over the cliff because some cool bull or some pretty heifer is out there leading the way right off a cliff.

(“Can I Be Faithful to God and Popular at School?,” John Piper, ©Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org)

Yes, by all means, have your youth read and study the book of Proverbs. But I want to suggest a preemptive strike. Don’t wait until your children are teens. Help them learn to be wise (the opposite of a fool) when they are young, with the hope and prayer that they will not depart from it. Encourage them embrace to God’s timeless wisdom now—seeing it as a priceless treasure and delight so that they avoid foolishness. Lead them to see that trusting in Jesus alone and following in His ways is the way of wisdom!

God's WisdomA resource I highly recommend for families is God’s Wisdom by Sally Michael, a great devotional for families. The book has 26 short, highly engaging chapters to read aloud as a family, followed by interactive discussion questions. Each chapter ends with an activity that will further help your children’s understanding, and provide a practical “next step” for applying wisdom in their lives.

Drawing for a Free Devotional! – CLOSED

Congratulations Dawn C. and Traci Mellick! Watch for an email about your prize.

We are giving away two copies of God’s Wisdom! Just leave us a comment below between now and Friday, February 10, and we will draw two names to each receive a free copy of this great devotional book. We will announce the winners on Monday, February 13. This drawing is open to readers with a U.S. mailing address.

 

 

Not Merely a Death on Behalf of Others

Not Merely a Death on Behalf of Others

Here are a few questions to ask your children and students (elementary age and older):

Why did Jesus die on the cross?

Why would it be wrong for God to simply pretend that your sin is no big deal?

How does Jesus’ death on the cross show that God is right in punishing sin and forgiving sinners?

What did Jesus experience on the cross? Why is this important to know?

Why is it also important that Jesus gives His people His own perfect righteousness?

If you were to appear in a courtroom today in which God was sitting as the judge, what verdict do you think He would pronounce over you, “Guilty” or “Not guilty”? Why?

Not Merely a Death on Behalf of OthersWhy are these questions important to ask? Because our children and students need to see and understand the uniqueness of Jesus’ death on the cross. They need to be taught the meaning of justification. No justification = no Gospel. While it may be age-appropriate for a preschooler to simply learn and recite that “Jesus died on the cross to save sinners,” as our children age and mature they need reasons that provide a biblical foundation for understanding the necessity of Jesus’ death and what it accomplished. If students hear over and over again simply that “Jesus died for sinners,” will that encourage them to be more or less amazed by His death? Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here—that simple statement is glorious beyond measure. But…

(more…)

“Repent and Believe”—A Call for Clarity

Repent and Believe - A Call for Clarity

We fill words with meaning. The more important the word and what it relates to, the more essential to “fill it” and interpret it with the intended meaning. When it comes to our children’s and students’ response to the Gospel, two words require careful attention: repent and believe. We must be very intentional and careful to communicate these terms in a way that doesn’t diminish the intended meaning. These words convey a serious weightiness—calling for and resulting in a complete transformation of a person’s mind, heart, and will. True saving repentance and belief—conversion, as it is commonly called—is much more than an acknowledgment of true facts about the Person and work of Jesus. Furthermore, while rightly emphasizing what it means to “believe in Jesus,” repentance is often minimized when instructing children. Pastor Art Murphy has some very wise advice for us as we seek to discern a child’s profession of faith:

Repent_QuoteDoes the child demonstrate a personal need or desire to repent of his sin? Is the child ashamed of the sin in his life? Knowing what sin is, is not the same as being ashamed of sin. If a child is not repentant but goes ahead and makes a decision to become a Christian, then his decision is premature and incomplete. Letting a child think he can become a Christian without repentance gives him false assurance. As a result, he may never repent and therefore never completely finish becoming a Christian.

Loving Jesus is an important part of becoming a Christian, but that is not enough. If a child is led to think that he can be a Christian without repentance, he does not fully understand the need for a Savior. He may love Jesus but not feel the need for Him in his life. He may live his life thinking that everything is OK when it is not.

(From, The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child, copyright©2000, pages 75-76)

At Children Desiring God, we have been concerned about this for some time. One thing we have done to address this issue is to be very careful and intentional in our curriculum by repeatedly incorporating the following concepts in the lessons:

  • Highlight the love of God within the context of His holiness.
  • Stress God’s rightful rule over us, to which we are called to submit.
  • Present the problem and extent of sin in a very serious and weighty manner.
  • Emphasize the Person and work of Jesus and what it means that He is both Lord and Savior.
  • Give an age-appropriate, yet deep and rich presentation of the Gospel—one that clearly explains the meaning and significance of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
  • Content that states the clear demand and explanation of biblical repentance and belief.
  • Instructions for teachers to use non-inclusive language when indicated so that students don’t “assume” faith, emphasizing the need for them to personally respond in true repentance and belief.
  • Provide thoughtful Small Group Application discussion questions that go beyond merely recalling lesson facts, but serve to aim toward the students’ hearts.
  • Include helpful supplementary material for teachers and small group leaders in the curricula Introduction and Appendix on understanding the Gospel presentation and sharing the Gospel with children.

Helping Children to Understand the GospelBut we also believe that the Gospel call to repent and believe should be communicated first, and foremost, by parents to their children. Our resource, Helping Children to Understand the Gospel, is a tool for parents to use in the home. In it, much is said regarding repentance and belief, and how a parent might communicate these truths in an age-appropriate manner, and tips for helping parents discern their child’s response to the Gospel.

 

“My child doesn’t want to go to church!”—Part 2

My Child Doesn't Want to Go to Church - Part 2

Read Part 1 for suggestions 1-5.

Somewhere along the way in our parenting, one or more of our children will likely express the above sentiment on any given Sunday. Yesterday’s post presented five suggestions for addressing the issue. Today I would like to present five more. Again, keep in mind that how you apply each may look very different depending on the age of the child—but the basic principles are the same.

6. Consider if any of your words and attitudes toward the church have contributed to your child’s perception.

Our words and attitudes make a great impression on our children. What we say aloud and the tone in which we say it often turns up in our children. If I, as a parent, establish a pattern of verbally criticizing the sermon, or the singing or other things related to the church, should I be surprised if my children don’t want to go to church? Ouch! I must ask, “Is my child’s negative attitude toward church in any way sparked and fueled by me?” If so, I need to confess this before the Lord, repent, ask His forgiveness, and commit to guard my heart and words in the future. I should also humbly confess to my children any sinful attitudes or words they have observed in me.

On a similar note, more times than I care to remember, by the time our family got in the car to go to church, I was barely on speaking terms with them! A real Sunday morning meltdown. Too little sleep the night before. Couldn’t find my Bible. Arguing with my husband during breakfast, etc. All things that started in me and came to be expressed through me. This can sour Sunday morning for the whole family. If that becomes the pattern, our children may come to associate going to church with mom or dad’s “bad attitude.” 

7. If the classroom experience is proving unworkable for your child, look for alternate ministry and learning opportunities during that time.

We had a child who really didn’t want to go to Sunday school at one time. After talking to him to get at the heart of the issue, we went and observed the class and noted some serious, legitimate concerns. We talked with teachers/leaders in order to communicate our concerns, and also to get their perspective. After careful consideration, we decided that this particular classroom situation could not be resolved in a manner that was beneficial to our child. So we decided to let him opt out of that class. However, we made clear that simply “hanging out” during the Sunday school hour was not an option. He must invest that time within another class or ministry of the church. We helped him find a suitable option and he thrived.

8. Understand that your child’s own heart condition may be at the root or a great contributor to the problem.

This is one that is hard for every parent to hear, but we must hear it: Our child may hate church because he or she is not a believer and is dull or even hostile toward spiritual things. No amount of denial, no amount of wishful thinking, no number of excuses can serve to cover-up this heart-breaking reality. As parents, our first instinct may be to demand change in the program: Make the classroom more fun. Make the youth group more entertaining and “relational.” Have less serious Bible teaching to allow more time to hang out. Before pondering any of these seemingly helpful solutions, we need to understand that changes such as these are not going to ultimately deal with our child’s heart issue. Furthermore, making Sunday school more fun or entertaining often serves in encouraging an unbeliever to happily continue along the path of unbelief as he or she feels comfortable within this more casual environment.

10 Tips to Help Your Child Love Church - Part 2

9. Pray, pray, pray!

Never underestimate or underutilize the power of prayer. Pray with your child and for your child.

  • On Saturday night, pray with your child about his or her Sunday morning experience. Dads: consider praying a “Saturday Night Special” blessing for your child using the booklet and blessing cards titled, A Father’s Guide to Blessing His Children.
  • Before your child enters the Sunday school room, pray with him or her.
  • Commit yourself to praying for your child’s heart toward the Lord.
  • Commit yourself to praying for your child’s teachers and the other students in the class.
  • Pray that the church as a whole—with all its members and ministries—will grow in displaying a beautifully attractive picture of what it means to love, honor, and cherish Christ.

10. God is sovereign, so never, never, never give up!

When a parent first hears the words, “I hate church. I don’t want to go!” it can be shocking and heart-breaking. Also, for utterly selfish reasons, it can be really frustrating for the parent. One more hassle to deal with. Out of fear or inconvenience it is tempting to throw in the towel and give up, “Fine, we just won’t go then.” Please, don’t take this option. Consider…

  • You and your children need the church. Your children, whether believers or unbelievers, need this means of God’s grace in their lives if they are to flourish.
  • Often, and by God’s grace, this negative attitude toward the church lasts for a season of time (even if it feels like forever!). Weather the storm, keep praying for and encouraging your child to weather the storm, too.
  • Without realizing it, your child may be absorbing more spiritual benefits from the worship service and the classroom than he or she, or you are aware. Seeds of faith are being planted, unseen to the human eye.
  • God is ultimately sovereign over your child’s heart.

Here is a final, encouraging word from a recent article by Nancy Guthrie:

…anyone who’s been a parent for long knows parenting requires a lot more than simply following the right steps to success. To raise a child toward godliness, we need much more than the good advice parenting experts have to offer. We need what only the Scriptures have to offer.

We need the commands and expectations of Scripture to keep us from complacency, and the grace and mercy of Scripture to save us from guilt. We need Scripture to puncture the pride that rises up in us when our child is doing well and we’re tempted to take the credit. And we need Scripture to save us from the despair that threatens to sink us when our child is floundering and we’re tempted to take all the blame.

While we have influence and responsibility, we don’t have control over our child. We can teach our child the Scriptures, but we can’t be the Holy Spirit in our child’s life. We can confront sinful patterns that need to change, but we can’t generate spiritual life that leads to lasting change. Only the Spirit can do that.

What we can do is pray for and parent our child the best we know how. We can keep trusting God to do what we cannot

(“Divine Words for Desperate Parents,” www.thegospelcoalition.org)

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