Archive - Theology RSS Feed

5 Reasons We Need to Encourage Active Learning

ID-10053170

Imagine a group of third graders in their Sunday school classroom. All are happily engaged—busy hands, feet, and voices—participating in a Bible lesson. This is active learning on display, right?…Maybe, but maybe not. It depends on your definition of “active learning.” Here is a definition from Sally Michael that I think gets to the heart of what we at CDG mean by active learning:

Active learning involves children’s minds interacting with the subject matter; they are thinking—discovering, imagining, questioning, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, drawing conclusions, and applying the material.

Yes, this may at times involve active hands, feet, and voices, but the emphasis is on the mind. Why do our children need this type of active learning? I believe there are at least five reasons.

 1. The text of the Bible requires it. (2 Timothy 2:15)

The Bible communicates its message through…

  • The simple and complex
  • The concrete and the abstract
  • The straight-forward and the paradox
  • Historical narrative and symbolic poetry, metaphors, allegories, etc.

John Piper: “Education is cultivating the life of the mind so that it knows how to grow in true understanding. That impulse was unleashed by God’s inspiring a Book with complex demanding paragraphs in it.” (from “Why God Inspired Hard Texts,” ©Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)

 2. Christian discipleship requires it. (2 Timothy 2:7; 3:14-15)

Albert Mohler: “Christian faithfulness requires the development of the believer’s intellectual capacities in order that we may understand the Christian faith, develop habits of Christian thought, form intuitions that are based upon biblical truth, and live in faithfulness to all that Christ teaches. This is no easy task, to be sure. Just as Christian discipleship requires growth and development, intellectual faithfulness requires a lifetime of devoted study, consecrated thinking, and analytical reflection.” (from “The Glory of God in the Life of the Mind,” albertmohler.com)

3. Active learning is a key motivator and guide for the proper application of biblical truth—true faith and heart transformation.

Learning most powerfully transfers and transforms when the material taught has meaning to the student’s life and experience. (from “Creative Bible Teaching,” copyright©1998, page 115)

Here’s a very simple example: Suppose a lesson includes reading the following:

 Exodus 20:15—“You shall not steal.”

This is simple and straight-forward. It is concrete. A young child can hear this and recite it back to you. But the mind will become more actively engaged and more interested in the concept when it is related to a real-life scenario such as:

What if someone was trying to sneak candy from a store without paying for it?

Now young ears perk up—candy! A child begins to think, “I know about candy. I like candy. There is a lot of yummy candy at the store. But Mom has to pay for the candy before I can have it. Sneaking candy without paying is wrong. But why?”

The mind has now become active. The child is pondering and analyzing. The child is motivated to hear more. Now the teacher has a means of connecting God’s truth to a child’s life. “You shall not steal” takes on a whole new meaning, as it can be applied to numerous situations and circumstances in life. When a child discovers this for himself, the “light goes on” in his head.

The child is excited by what he has learned and will be more motivated to apply it to his own life.

4. Active learning gives our children a strong defense of the Christian faith.
(1 Peter 3:15)

Nancy Pearsey: “As Christian parents, pastors, teachers, and youth group leaders, we constantly see young people pulled down by the undertow of powerful cultural trends. If all we give them is a “heart” religion, it will not be strong enough to counter the lure of attractive but dangerous ideas. Young believers also need a “brain” religion—training in worldview and apologetics—to equip them to analyze and critique the competing worldviews they will encounter when they leave home.
(from “Total Truth,” www.summit.org)

 5. You cannot love, trust, or worship that which you do not know.
(Mark 12:30; Romans 12:2)

John Piper: “There is an odd notion that, if we use our minds to grow in our knowledge of God, mystery will diminish and with it a sense of wonder and reverence. I call this notion odd for two reasons. One is that, no matter how many millions of ages I use my mind to know more and more of God’s majesty, his glories will never be in danger of being exhausted. What is not yet known of God by finite creatures will always be limitless. You honor this truth more by shameless growth in the knowledge of God.

“And the second reason I find the notion odd that thinking about God and knowing more and more of God jeopardizes our worship of God, is that without knowing him we can’t worship in a way that honors him. God is not honored when people get excited about how little they know of him.” (from “The Life of the Mind and the Love of God,” www.desiringGod.org)

(Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

A Banner to Fly Over Your Parenting and Children’s Ministry

ID-100338062

What if we were to take this statement and make it a type of banner to fly over our parenting and children’s and youth ministries in the coming years?

Our aim is not to take a child’s low views of self and replace them with high views of self. Rather our aim is to take a child’s low views of God and replace them with high views of God. Our aim is not to take a child with little sense of worth and fill him with a great sense of worth. Rather our aim is to take a child who by nature makes himself the center of the universe and show him that he was made to put God at the center of the universe and get joy not from seeing his own tiny worth, but from knowing Christ who is of infinite worth.

(“Predestined for Adoption to the Praise of His Glory,” by John Piper, ©Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)

Think of how countercultural and even counterintuitive this is…and yet it is so radically biblical and life-giving for our children! In many ways, our resources have been developed underneath this sweeping banner. For example, our first two distinctions are:

  • A Big Vision of God

Our curricula aims to acquaint children with the incomparable majesty of the triune God by digging deep into His divine character as revealed throughout Scripture. We believe that children should be taught the beauty and grandeur of His manifold perfections. In completing our scope and sequence, children will have learned and explored, with increasing depth, more than 20 distinct attributes of God.

  • The Centrality of God in All Things

Every lesson in every curriculum aims to magnify the triune God above all—His name, fame, honor, and glory. We believe children will find their greatest joy when they esteem God most. Therefore, the lessons use language, illustrations, and applications that point children toward God-adoration. Furthermore, the curricula challenge children to see that every aspect of life is to fall under centrality of God and His sovereign rule.

Every resource we develop seeks to do these things—from nursery and beyond. Two resources in particular are designed to give children a “high view” of God by carefully focusing on His divine attributes and character.

The ABCs of God: A Study for Children on the Greatness and Worth of God (1st – 3rd Grade, 40 lessons)
The ABCs of God was written to present children with the beauty and awesome grandeur of the incomparable greatness and worth of God. Toward this end, this curriculum uses the framework of the alphabet to teach children key attributes of God and other words that define His character. These are deep doctrinal truths that answer the most important questions for each of us, namely, “Who is God? What is God like? How should I respond to God?”

(Note: The revised version of The ABCs of God will be available Summer 2016. Watch the blog for further updates.)

How Majestic Is Your Name: A Study for Children on the Names and Character of God (5th – 6th Grade, 40 lessons)
The names of God in the Bible are a reflection of His character, which is so glorious that He cannot be described by a single name. His character is communicated in hundreds of names progressively revealed in the Bible. But the focus of How Majestic Is Your Name is not the many names, titles and references to God. This are merely the structure to show the greatness of our God. Each lesson presents glorious truths about God and encourages students to see and rejoice in His goodness and greatness.

Is your church already using one or both of these curricula? Have you and your children been encouraged as you have seen a great and marvelous view of God and the surpassing worth of Christ? We would be delighted if you would share an encouraging testimony with us and others.

(Image courtesy of photoexplorer at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

What’s Your Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God?

ID-100120963

It is a well-known fact in my family that I am a stereotypical procrastinator. I stall as long as possible before getting things done—even really important things! Long-term strategic planning is not my natural mode of operation, as I would rather wait and then be motivated by the “tyranny of the urgent.” But when it comes to the spiritual education and formation of our children and youth, this type of approach is not at all helpful or biblical. It puts off what should be very carefully planned and implemented.

For example, think ahead for a moment and ask yourself this long-term question: By the time my children and/or students reach adulthood, will they be able to answer these key questions?

  • What’s in the Bible?
  •  Who is the Bible about?
  •  What’s the main message of the Bible?
  •  What are the essential doctrines (truths) of the Christian faith?
  •  How are we to live?
  •  Why do we need to be saved?
  •  What must we do to be saved?
  •  How should we read and understand the Bible?

These types of questions cannot be readily or adequately addressed by a hit-and-miss approach. Rather, they require implementing a carefully constructed strategic plan—a plan that encompasses teaching the whole counsel of God. What does that look like? How and where do you begin?

This was the topic addressed in my seminar, “Making a Strategic Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God,” at our National Conference this year. Here are two helpful resources from that seminar to assist you in making your own strategic plan: The seminar handout and the accompanying seminar PowerPoint presentation, which includes two charts showing the available from CDG curricula, from nursery to high school, and how each fits into the long-term, strategic plan.

 

24 Things Your Child Should Know About the Bible…in a Book

God's Word Cover

Last week, I highlighted the curriculum I Stand in Awe: A Study for Children on the Bible, which teaches children about the nature and main message of the Bible. But what about a resource that might be a better fit in a home setting, such as a family devotional tool? Consider the book, God’s Word, which is adapted from the I Stand in Awe curriculum. God’s Word is a captivating, child-friendly resource for parents to use to approach the Bible with their children, and also to involve their children in reaching for the Bible themselves.

Each of the 26 chapters is only four pages long and displays a full-color illustration. It is written specifically to be read by or to children, with an engaging style that will help them understand the concepts presented. Furthermore, each chapter ends with personal application questions and a tangible activity to put the truths learned into practice.

As a parent and grandparent, I find this resource to be a great way to introduce children to the basics of the Bible. After reading through it with your child, not only will they be better equipped to answer the question, “What is the Bible?” but they will also be challenged, encouraged, and hopefully drawn to trust and treasure the Author of the Bible.

 

24 Things Your Child Should Know about the Bible

awe LOGO

Suppose you were to ask your 6- or 7-year-old children or students, “What is the Bible?” How do you think they would answer? Sally Michael believes there are at least 24 things children of this age should know about the Bible:

  • The Bible is a message from God.
  • The Bible is the most special Book.
  • The Bible is written by God.
  • The Bible is true.
  • God watches over the Bible and works to fulfill His Word.
  • The Bible is for everyone.
  • The Bible is full of wonderful verses.
  • God is the main character in the Bible.
  • The Bible is powerful.
  • The Bible is eternal.
  • God will preserve the Bible.
  • The Bible is the ultimate authority.
  • The Bible shows us that our hope is in God.
  • The Bible protects us from sin.
  • The Bible is our guide.
  • The Bible should be obeyed.
  • The Bible is a priceless treasure.

What is the message of the Bible?

  • There is only one true God.
  • We were created to show God’s greatness and worth (God’s glory).
  • All people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • The wages of sin is death.
  • We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.
  • The gift of God is eternal life.
  • God gave us the Bible so that we might believe in Jesus.

Yes, these list is not comprehensive, but it’s a good place to start and provides some concrete, obtainable goals for children. And, to help you do just that, Sally has written a curriculum that carefully explains each of these points:

I Stand in Awe – A Study for Children on the Bible

 26 Lessons

Target Grade: 1st Grade

Grade Range: Kindergarten-2nd Grade

God, who is the most valuable Being in all the universe, reveals Himself with clarity and authority through His Word. This means that the Bible is precious and should be valued more than any other book. This study seeks to acquaint young children with the characteristics of the Bible and its message of redemption. The goal is for children to develop a deep affection for the Bible and learn to treasure its Author.

Learn more about this curriculum here. And a special note to parents: This curriculum is very adaptable for using in the home. Look here for ideas in adapting the curriculum for the home.

No Sitting This One Out + Free Giveaway

ID-100258024

Recently, I went with my daughter and four grandchildren to a local mall so the children could get their wiggles out on a cold and blistery day. While there, we encountered a bigger-than-life display at the store front of a popular bridal shop: two women dressed as brides for their wedding day…to each other. There, for all to see. In your face. This is your new world. Explain that to a 4-year-old! But that is just the beginning of the difficult things my grandchildren will increasingly encounter.

Here is a sad but urgent message from Todd Pruitt posted at “Mortification of Spin”:

As you can see, there is no sitting out this revolution. You will be made to care. The new revolution’s battle for our children’s minds and allegiance now has the formal support of the state. The culture war has been brought into the living rooms of every household. The report from the Obama Administration makes clear that any school which does not comply with the rules of the new sexual revolution will face the retaliation of the Federal Government.

The indispensable Rod Dreher issued the following words last evening:

“My government is the enemy of my church and my family. It has come to that. I figured it would one day. But not so soon”…

Sadly, the church has in too many cases equipped our young people with a facile “being Christian is fun” theology which will quickly wither and die under the heat of this new revolution.

(“Enemies of the State,” May 13, 2016)

There is truly no sitting this one out. Too much is at stake, namely God’s objective and absolute truth—especially Gospel truth. More than ever, the church and parents need to make an intentional, serious effort to prepare and equip our children and youth for this moral revolution. They will need a solid faith built upon the sure foundation of God’s Word, lived out with relentless confidence and joy through all of life’s circumstances. And that will require us to go way beyond “fun” in our classrooms.

First, here are two good resources to help clarify the impact of the Federal government’s recent directive to our nation’s public schools and the wider issues involved for our children and families:

Dr. Albert Mohler, “The Briefing – May 16”

Joe Carter, “Explainer: Federal Government Issues Letter on Transgender Policy to America’s Public Schools”

Second, if you have not done so, prayerfully consider using this CDG study for youth:

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

Third, I highly recommend parents using the new book God’s Design with your elementary-aged children. I just gave a copy of this to my daughter and son-in-law.

Fourth, Free Give-away!

Enter a comment of any length by Friday, May 20, and your name will be entered to receive a free copy of God’s Design. We will choose 2 winners at random and announce them on Wednesday May 25.

(Image courtesy of Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

20 Basics Young People Should Know

51aPh-rr-0L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

Yesterday I recommended some summer reading for elementary-aged children. Today I have a summer challenge for youth—Wayne Grudem’s Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know. Why do I recommend this book for summer reading for your youth (age 16 and above)? Here are a few reasons:

  • It goes right to the core of Christianity by asking and answering the main questions. Questions like…

What Is the Bible?

What Is God like?

What Is man?

What Is sin?

Who Is Christ?

What Is the Atonement?

What Is Death?

What Is Heaven?

  • It is relatively short (158 pages) and is written in an accessible style that most high school-aged students can grasp.
  • Although some students might initially respond to the questions by saying, “I already know that!” Grudem provides even the more seasoned “theologian” something to think about and ponder.
  • There are questions for review and personal application at the end of each chapter.
  • It can serve to strengthen the faith and confidence of a true believer, but also challenge your children to carefully examine whether or not their faith is genuine—providing an opening for some honest spiritual discussions between parent and child.

With all the above to commend it to your young adults, it may require a little incentive to actually get them to read this over the summer months. As parents, we have a lot of means at our disposal to motivate our children. Consider reading it together, modeling structured study and discipleship. Maybe even plan a special event when the book is completed—going camping, fishing, or to a favorite sporting event.

Whatever the case, I highly recommend it. And it could also be the answer to “What should I give the high school graduate for a gift?” question that pops up this time of year.

Introducing Your Children to the Scope of the Bible

21YMBPVKX9L._BO1,204,203,200_

When I taught first-grade Sunday school, we always taught the books of the Bible song in order to acquaint the children with the 66 books of the Bible. And, although they mastered the song by the end of the year, the great majority of children didn’t know much about Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai…etc. “What’s a Nahum?”

Besides being able to name the books of the Bible, do your children know the scope of the Bible—the main message, key events and people, and historical context of each of its 66 books? That may seem like a tall order, but it is an important goal if we are to teach our children the whole counsel of God. Dr. Bruce Ware emphasized this at our conference in April.

For adults, a good study Bible is especially helpful. But what about our children? Here is a resource parents can use with their elementary-aged children that could easily be a 10- to 15-minute daily Bible “enrichment” during the summer by examining Genesis through Revelation—one book per day, 6 days a week.

What the Bible Is All About for Young Explorers (Note: Although there is a newer edition available, I recommend this older edition. The newer edition contains the same basic information but includes an introduction that I would not recommend using with children.)

This book takes each individual book of the Bible and gives children the following information in simple outline form with age-appropriate graphics and illustrations:

  • Writer
  • Title of the book
  • Location
  • Main people
  • Outline of the book
  • Main events and when and where they happened

…and more interesting facts.

Please note that this book isn’t theologically deep. It doesn’t present children with the essential doctrines of the Christian faith in a systematic manner. While some key doctrines are introduced, they are not explored to any great depth…although man’s sin problem and our need for a Savior is woven throughout the book. It is still a great resource for children, providing them with a basic Bible survey that is a key element in acquainting them with the whole counsel of God.

Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God

Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God

We were honored to have Bruce Ware join us again for the Children Desiring God National Conference as he guided us through Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God. Bruce broke the whole counsel of God down into two categories—breath and the depth—to help us further understand its meaning. Video of the conference keynotes will be available at a later date.

Breadth

Bruce shared to steps to keep in mind as he discussed understanding the breadth of the whole counsel of God. First, we need to be a people who come to understand the whole of Biblical content. He recommends using a good study Bible. This can help you understand the historical and cultural background of each book of the Bible, so you can have a better understanding as you teach the Scriptures. When Paul wrote the words, “All scripture is God-breathed…” he had in mind everything that had been written in the Bible, and everything that would be written. Therefore, we ought to pay attention to each of the 66 books of the Bible in teaching.

Secondly, we must learn to see the unity, continuity and development of truth throughout the story of the Bible. As we examine this story, there are many words and themes that are threaded throughout the Bible as important markers along the road. By tracing these key words and themes throughout the Bible, we can see the story that God intended to write developing. However, we do not to just see the developing story within each individual book, but to see the developing story throughout the entire Bible. These things are all-important in shaping both our own worldview, and that of the next generation.

Bruce Ware

Depth

We need to grow in an in-depth understanding of passages of Scripture. We cannot sacrifice knowing and understanding the flow of the passage for committing it to rote memory—but that is not to say that memorization is bad. Bruce commends thinking of memorization as a by-product of meditating. Reading and studying the Bible slowly is important in the growth of our Christian lives—the glory is in the details.

Believers also need an in-depth understanding of Biblical doctrines. We must have a resolute commitment to side with the Bible even when that decision goes against our culture. That means, in part, embracing paradoxes in God’s character. Our culture sometimes over-emphasizes aspects of God’s character at the expense of others, and we must not teach his Word that way. The cultural understanding appeals to us in the sense that our culture hates certain aspects of God’s culture, but we cannot shrink back from talking about them. For example, our culture hates the idea that God ordains our suffering, but the Bible says that he does. This doctrine gives Christians hope because it gives our suffering meaning.

What does this mean for you and your ministry to children?
Consider asking these questions:

  1. How can I grow in my understanding in each of these areas?
  2. How can my affections be more stirred, and my heart more moved by these truths?
  3. How can I be used in the lives of the next generation to commend to their heads and hearts the breadth and depth of the whole counsel of God?

 

Gospel “Poles” and the Whole Counsel of God

Gospel "Poles" and the Whole Counsel of God

My family enjoys camping…old-fashioned tent camping. We have a very large tent that my children affectionately call the “Taj Mahal”. The frame of the tent is a series of poles that must first be assembled and then threaded through the proper sleeves of the tent fabric. This takes time. There is no short-cut. But when every pole is properly in place, you simply pull on the guide ropes and the tent goes up and takes its proper shape.

This illustration can be helpful in demonstrating the importance of communicating the Gospel within the whole counsel of God. There are “poles”—key doctrinal truths—involved in properly understanding the significance of the Person and saving work of Christ. As parents and teachers, we should consider how to carefully and intentionally walk through and explain these preceding doctrinal truths with our children. In doing this, the full extent of who Jesus is, what He has done, and why He did it, will make more sense to our children. The Gospel of Jesus will take on its proper “shape” so to speak.

This tent illustration was a feature in my recent seminar “Communicating the Gospel Within the Whole Counsel of God” at the National Conference. In the near future, the entire seminar will be available online for you to listen to. But until then, you might be interested in this seminar handout which outlines 9 key doctrinal themes for communicating the Gospel.

(Note: If you attended this seminar at our conference, please download the handout noted above. The handout distributed at the conference had a section missing.)

 

 

Page 5 of 14« First...«34567»10...Last »