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Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

We all know and appreciate the progression of a child’s ability to read and write. To begin with, it’s an informal process as infants and toddlers listen to the conversations of those around them and begin to pick up bits and pieces of language—words and their meanings. But at the same time, we also understand the need for intentional, age-appropriate teaching. For example, we help young children connect the objects they see with corresponding words. We speak to them at “their level.” Then more formal instruction takes place as we teach them individual letters. We demonstrate how to spell and sound out simple words. Next comes constructing sentences and applying the rules of grammar. On and on, step-by-step, this process slowly progresses. Over time, both the formal and informal instruction serve to produce a vibrant, functional literacy.

I think this example illustrates something very important about teaching the Gospel to children. There is a place and necessity for both informal and formal instruction. Children Desiring God curricula would be an example of formal instruction. By design, formal instruction will take a somewhat different (and much slower) approach. It incorporates an age-appropriate, step-by-step progression. But that’s where the misunderstanding and frustration may enter in. Take for example these concerns that are sometimes expressed about our curricula: (more…)

The HEART of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

Complete the following checklist for your own children or the children in your class:

I want my children to…

  • Be attentive listeners
  • Act respectfully toward their teachers
  • Be honest and compassionate
  • Grow up to be responsible men and women
  • Have a good job in the future
  • Get married and have a family some day
  • Be actively involved in a local, Bible-believing church
  • Memorize Bible verses
  • Be biblically literate
  • Be able to recite the Catechism

If you checked all the points, you are probably not alone. What parent and teacher wouldn’t want this for their children? But is anything important missing from this list? Of course, and you probably spotted it—true saving faith, a heart that trusts and treasures Jesus above all. And what is tremendously sobering is that the above checklist can be achieved without sincere, life-transforming faith. Consider Jesus’ words: (more…)

The Call to Make Disciples

The Call to Make Disciples

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave every Christian in every century a commission with eternal significance:

…”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”—Matthew 28:18-20, ESV

Our calling is very clear—to “make disciples.” This is the greatest work in which to invest our lives! Christ’s mandate to us is to see spiritual interest awaken, new birth come forth, and then foster steady steps toward maturity in Christ…but it is a mandate wrought with privilege and true joy. (more…)

Teaching By Example

Teaching By Example

In her seminar titled, “Teaching Children the Fear of the Lord,” Sally Michael reminds us of the importance of teaching from a heart that loves and embraces the truths being taught.

Like so many spiritual things, the fear of the Lord is better “caught” than “taught.” Children very often pick up our attitudes—those we respect, they tend to respect. Our attitude toward God is also sensed by them—not so much by our words, but by our actions, and our heart affections; it is very easy for them to sense what we feel, to honor what we honor, and to disregard what we disregard.

So the first step we must take in helping our children to fear the Lord is to examine our own hearts. Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:

• Am I humble and contrite before the Lord, respecting His authority over me, and recognizing His infinite greatness?

• How seriously do I take the word of God? Do I tremble at God’s Word? Do I diligently apply it to my life, obey its commands conscientiously, take its warnings seriously, and heed its teaching? Do I take in the whole scope of Scripture, even the hard truths and stories? (more…)

Helping Children Understand the Cost of Following Jesus

Helping Children Understand the Cost of Following Jesus

Years ago my son stepped through the doors of an Army recruitment office. He was given a wonderful and glorious picture of army life—one filled with financial benefits and exciting adventures. You’d be crazy NOT to join up. But, unbeknownst to the recruiter, our son had been given a prior “recruitment” talk by a good friend and mentor who had been in the army for 20 years (including two, year-long deployments into war zones). He gave our son a much more realistic and truthful picture. It was with this latter understanding that our son signed up. He counted the cost and joined because he was committed to a cause he believed in, knowing that hard work, self-sacrifice, suffering, and war was ahead.

I wonder sometimes if we are prone to a subtle type of recruitment mentality when we present the Gospel to children. Please don’t get me wrong—the Gospel IS the most glorious news of all, and we should be gladly sharing with our children and students the truth of the incomparable benefits and all-satisfying joy of trusting in Jesus and following Him. Jesus alone is “the way and the true and the life.” But, do we also help them understand that there is a cost in following Jesus? (more…)

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: (more…)

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? (more…)

They Need More than a Cheerleader

They Need More Than a Cheerleader

Melissa Kruger wrote this article for her sisters in Christ, but it also hit home to me as a teacher, parent, and grandparent. The same tendency to reduce Jesus to the role of spiritual cheerleader in ministries and resources aimed at women can easily, and oh so subtly, begin to pervade our children’s Sunday school classrooms and our parenting.

Please, please read the entire article, “Sisters, Jesus Is Not Your Cheerleader” in order to properly understand what she is saying and what she is not saying. As you read this excerpt from the article, think about how her points readily apply to teaching children and parenting in general.

They Need More Than a CheerleaderAnd, to be clear, Jesus does encourage. He offers words of strength to the weary and comfort to the hurting. In a world where we so often feel we don’t measure up, we need his encouragement daily. By focusing on only part of his message, however, I’m concerned that we’ve reduced Jesus to a spiritual cheerleader. And, in turn, that’s what we’ve become to one another. We offer words of affirmation, but not rebuke; words of forgiveness, but not repentance. We rightly celebrate his grace, but often forget to mourn our sin.

In doing so, we miss out on life-giving realities in our relationship with Jesus and one another. It’s the friends willing to call me out in my sin and say hard things whom I trust the most. They’re the ones I return to time and again for advice and wisdom—precisely because they recognize that who I am isn’t all I need to be.

Jesus speaks to us in a variety of ways—he teaches, commands, rebukes, calls, and exhorts. When we reduce Jesus to our personal rah-rah section in the bleachers, we miss out on the faithful friend we so desperately need. If you’re mainly hearing “you’re great!” (cue Tony the Tiger) from your devotional or women’s ministry, I invite you back to God’s Word, where we hear the voice of Jesus in a diversity of ways.

(www.thegospelcoalition.org)

Questions to ask in regard to our children’s and youth ministries in particular:

  • Do the resources we use—curriculum and other books—present the variety of ways that God speaks to us in His Word in a balanced way? Do they continually point to the greatness of God, or do they tend to make much of us instead?
  • In teaching children, does my teaching style tend toward the “rah-rah, you’re great” in an unhealthy and unbiblical way? How can I take steps to have a more balanced and biblical approach? (It’s possible to also teach with the other extreme—too little exhorting or encouraging. This is also unhealthy and unbiblical.
  • For my own devotional life, do I carefully select materials that bring me to God’s Word in such a way that I see the whole counsel of God being communicated through a diversity of commands, rebukes, calls, and exhortations? How can doing so better help me as a parent and teacher?

 

They Will Worship

51r089y1dml-_sx330_bo1204203200_Here is a great reminder from Tedd Tripp:

Parenting is not just providing good input. It is not just creating a constructive home atmosphere and positive interaction between a child and his parent. There is another dimension. The child is interacting with the living God. He is either worshiping and serving and growing in understanding of the implications of who God is or he is seeking to make sense of life without a relationship with God.

If he is living as a fool who says in his heart there is no God, he doesn’t cease to be a worshipper—he simply worships what is not God. Part of the parent’s task is to shepherd him as a creature who worships, pointing him to the One who alone is worthy of his worship.

(Shepherding a Child’s Heart, copyright©1995, page 22)

This is our heartfelt desire at CDG—we want to assist parents and churches by creating resources that point children toward the incomparable greatness and worth of God, with the hope and prayer that they become God worshipers. We long to point the next generation to Jesus, so that they might come love and trust Him as the only One who saves and satisfies the desires of the heart.

By God’s grace may our children join in this everlasting song:

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

(Revelation 4:8b,11 ESV)

 

Feeding All the Little Lambs

Leading All the Little Lambs

At Children Desiring God we strongly believe that God has ordained parents as the primary teachers and disciplers of their children. It is a sacred responsibility and privilege. All the many wonderful Sunday school classes and other children’s and youth programs in your church are no substitute for your calling to nurture the faith of your children. Consider these words from Charles Spurgeon:

Let no Christian parents fall into the delusion that the Sunday school is intended to ease them of their personal duties. The first and most natural condition of things is for Christian parents to train up their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Let holy grandmothers and gracious mothers, with their husbands see to it that their own boys and girls are well taught in the book of the Lord.

But…

  • what about the children who come to your church who do not have believing parents?
  • what about children who are receiving a minimal amount of spiritual nourishment in their homes due to a variety of factors?
  • what about children who live in a one-parent home—and that parent is doing the best he or she can but is overwhelmed with simply holding things together?

Even in Spurgeon’s day these were realities, and he does not neglect to address this with great tenderness and earnestness.

Where there are no such Christian parents, it is well and wisely done for godly people to intervene. It is a Christly work when others undertake the duty which the natural doers of it have left undone. The Lord Jesus looks with pleasure upon those who feed His lambs, and nurse His babes, for it is not His will that any of these little ones should perish. Timothy had the great privilege of being taught by those whose natural duty it is, but where that great privilege cannot be enjoyed, let us all, as God shall help us, try to make up to the children the terrible loss which they endure. Come forward, earnest men and women, and sanctify yourselves for this joyful service.

(from a sermon titled, “The Sunday School and the Scriptures, No.1866,”
found at www.spurgeongems.org)

 Getting Practical

Check out our one-page guide, “Ministering to Children from Non-Christian Homes for some practical steps that can be implemented in the classroom setting.

Leading All the Little Lambs

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