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The Lasting Gift of Encouragement

Children Desiring God Blog // The Lasting Gift of Encouragement

In my home office, I have a folder file titled, “Encouragement.” In it are notes—simple, handwritten notes from children I have taught throughout the years in Sunday school and midweek classes. Typically, I was given these notes during the last weeks of the class year. Some notes made me laugh. Some made me cry happy tears. Each note is precious. Each brings to mind a memory. Each is a source of lasting encouragement to this teacher.

So parents, don’t underestimate the power of your 5 year old’s barely legible “thank you” to a Sunday school teacher on a note card with accompanying car stickers or hand-drawn flowers. These notes are a valuable source of encouragement. Teach your children to be encouragers. Set an example of showing thankfulness to those who have served you. Use the next few weeks as an opportunity to encourage those who have served you and your child this past year.

Philippians 2:1-3—So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

1 Thessalonians 5:11—Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Romans 15:5-6—May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

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

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

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

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NOW AVAILABLE: A Sure Foundation

A Sure Foundation Nursery Curriculum

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “see, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”—Isaiah 28:16

Nurturing the faith of the next generations begins with the youngest in your church. The A Sure Foundation curriculum will help you develop a ministry steeped in prayer and overflowing with foundational Bible stories, truth statements about God and Scripture memory. We have refreshed and expanded this curriculum to equip you and your teachers to minister to children through the infant and toddler years.

The expanded A Sure Foundation now includes four parts: (more…)

Praying for Backyard Bible Clubs

Praying for Backyard Bible Clubs

Backyard Bible Clubs are a great way to connect with neighbors, train youth in service and ministry, and have an impact for the Gospel.

One key component for an effective Backyard Bible Club is prayer.

  • Pray early during planning and preparation.
    • Pray for God’s wisdom in the details, from which curriculum to choose to the dates and times to have the club(s).
    • Pray that your volunteers would have a passion for serving and a heart for children to hear about our Great Savior.
  • Pray often both individually and corporately.
    • Incorporate prayer for the Backyard Bible Club into your personal devotions.
    • Pray as a team during preparation and training, as well as for all aspects of the club.
  • Pray before and during the club.
    • Gather as a team before the children arrive to pray that God would direct the time together and for God to work in each heart.
    • Pray for each child who would come, and for anything of concern that came to light the previous day.
    • Have the people running snack time pray for the children during snack time.
  • Pray as you and your team follow up with families after the club, inviting them to a program or meal after the club, and even to church.
    • Pray for hearts to see God and faith to grow.
    • Pray for families to be welcomed and loved by those putting on the club.

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Discipleship-Oriented Resources

Discipleship-Oriented Resources

Yesterday’s post pointed to the meaning of Christian discipleship in our parenting and teaching. With that in mind, it becomes extremely important to choose resources for the home and church that serve to foster discipleship.

At Children Desiring God, we want the next generations to be serious, passionate, joyful disciples of Christ, who are fully equipped and prepared to deny themselves, take up their cross and daily follow Jesus. To that end, our curricula emphasize a discipleship orientation that fosters life-long instruction in and practice of the Christian life. We aim to accomplish this through the following:

  • developing a carefully designed scope and sequence of teaching content that progressively moves children and youth toward greater spiritual growth.
  • using a relational, interactive teaching style in which the evidences of Christian discipleship are clearly communicated, visibly demonstrated, and faithfully encouraged.
  • intentionally providing resources and training for the home that promote and equip parents for their responsibility in discipling their children.

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What Do They SEE?

What Do They See?

Family devotions, Sunday school classes, catechism, Bible study, corporate worship services, mission projects—all important and helpful tools and means of instructing our children and students in the Christian faith. But there is a really crucial aspect we often don’t think about as much as we should. Consider the former list in light of these words:

Discipleship is the process whereby we seek to teach others the Word of God. Notice that the Great Commission is not only to teach people God’s commands, but to teach them to “observe” or “obey” all that He commanded. There is a world of difference between teaching someone everything the Lord commanded and teaching them to obey everything He commanded. One is through words, the other through a way of life. Teaching someone to obey God’s commands requires intentionality in the context of relationship throughout the span of a lifetime.   (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—Jesus Saves!

The Gospel Alphabet - Jesus Saves!

One of the very first words my grandson learned to write was his name, “David.” Five letters of the alphabet, written in a specific order, and they now identify a little boy. Each letter significant. Each unique. Each letter necessary for his name.

In the past several posts, I have used the example of teaching children the alphabet to highlight the necessity of teaching children a type of “Gospel alphabet.” This alphabet consists of foundational truths—antecedents—that are meant to help our children properly understand the person and work of Jesus. In brief summary, children need to be taught…

Introducing these truths in a slow, step-by-step, progression is an important part of our children’s formal Bible education. These truths provide the necessary foundation for understanding these two words:

Jesus saves.

Two very short words. Only six distinct letters…yet incomparable in their greatness, worth, and meaning! But unless we have given children some antecedents for understanding these two words, their grasp of the riches of the Gospel and the glory of Jesus will be sorely deficient. (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—Sin

The Gospel Alphabet—Sin

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”
Read Part 3: The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God
Read Part 4: The Gospel Alphabet—Who We Are in Relation to God

I love the scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King where Frodo and Sam are making their last, desperate effort to destroy the one ring in the depths of Mt. Doom. What makes the final destruction of the ring so incredibly magnificent and satisfying is the context. Before that, we have been taken on a long journey that has introduced us to the magnitude of evil, despair, and ruin brought about by the ring and its influence. You don’t simply go from a peaceful, idealistic life in the Shire to the triumphant destruction of the ring. The story would have lost its grandeur and appeal if author J.R.R. Tolkien had simply done the latter.

But now consider the story communicating ultimate reality to us as revealed in the historical narrative of Scripture, and consider these words from D. A. Carson:

There can be no agreement as to what salvation is unless there is agreement as to that from which salvation rescues us. The problem and the solution hang together: the one explicates the other. It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is; conversely, to augment one’s understanding of the cross is to augment one’s understanding of sin.

To put the matter another way, sin establishes the plotline of the Bible.

(more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—Who We are in Relation to God

The Gospel Alphabet—Who We are in Relation to God

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”
Read Part 3: The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

“I can do it all by myself” is a comment we hear increasingly from our 5-year-old grandson. Whether it is brushing his teeth, getting dressed, or buckling himself in his car seat, he is slowly but surely moving toward a healthy type of independence necessary for adulthood. As parents, we strive to progressively instill this in our children.

However, as good as this goal is for our children, we must at the same time help them grasp and pursue a greater level of dependency. “I can do it all by myself” can be dangerous and deadly! How so?

In the previous post in The Gospel Alphabet series, I spoke of the necessity of giving our children a robust doctrine of God. Understanding who God is and what He is like is crucial for children knowing who they are. For example, consider Genesis 1:1, which most of our children have easily committed to memory,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (ESV) (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”

Consider for a moment what children can learn about the nature and character of God from the Old Testament:

  • There is only one God.
  • God is eternal and unchanging.
  • God is the Creator of everything.
  • God rules over everything and everyone.
  • God chooses a special people for Himself.
  • God makes special promises to His people.
  • God is faithful and always keeps His promises.
  • God is holy and righteous.
  • God is jealous and deserves all honor, love, trust, obedience, and worship.
  • God knows everything.
  • God is all-powerful.
  • God is everywhere all the time.
  • God is wrathful toward sin.
  • God is just.
  • God is loving, compassionate, patient, and merciful.
  • God is the Savior of His people.

These truths, taught to our children, lay the foundation for understanding the person and work of Jesus in the Gospel. Here is just one example of what I mean by this:

For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,—Colossians 1:19 (more…)

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