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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.)

 

 

You CAN Do Catechism!

Children Desiring God Blog // You CAN Do Catechism

One of the new seminars at this year’s national conference was on using catechisms for teaching children—especially in the home. In the future we will have this seminar by Sally Michael available on our web site. But until then, here is an excellent article for parents (take note fathers!!!) to encourage you to get started: “The Importance and Practice of Catechism: Fathers-Instruct Your Childrenby Dr. Kim Riddlebarger. He concludes his article with these practical reminders:

First, be consistent. The best way to learn a catechism is simply to keep at it! Take “the tortoise” and not “the hare” approach. You cannot teach your child a lengthy catechism in a couple of weeks! But over time—if you keep at ityou’ll be amazed at how much children will remember and comprehend.

Second, be creative. One of the greatest obstacles to catechism is boredom. Simply reading the question and then expecting your children to recite the memorized answer is no fun for them, and they’ll come to hate the whole idea. Go ahead and stress memorization, but whenever you can, relate the catechism to the Scriptures. Most catechisms give Scripture proofs. And if you discuss the question and answer with your kids, and then relate the catechism to real life situations, current events or to movies and TV, your kids will get the sense that theology is of great value in navigating their way through life…

Third, don’t panic. Many people tell me that they are new to this and there is always the pressure to make up for lost time. Go slow. Quality time is always better than rushed and tense sessions where the kids are tired and the parents are frustrated. Do what you can when you can and have realistic expectations. Even a small amount of catechesis is better than no catechesis.

Last, the more that you know about the catechism the easier the whole process will become. You may have to get a commentary on the particular catechism that you use, and you may have to spend some time preparing to catechize. Being an effective teacher means being a faithful student. You cannot teach what you do not know…

1. (“Fathers, Instruct Your Children” was originally published as “The Need to Recover the Practice of Catechism” and was revised for use by Christ Reformed Church. Re-printed by permission, © 1995 Modern Reformation / ACE)

Deep Talks for Strong Faith

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Recently I have been reading through a newly released book for Christian parents by Natasha Crain titled, “Keeping Your Kid’s on God’s Side–40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith.” It’s not often you find a book on Christian apologetics written specifically with kids in mind, so this book has me intrigued. I hope to post a thorough review in the near future. At the end of the book, she gives “10 Tips for Having Deeper Faith Conversations with Your Kids.” I found these to wise and practical—something every parent can be working on. Here are the 10 tips, along with a few quotes:

  1. Commit to continually deepening your understanding of Christianity.
  1. Make spiritual space in your home.
  2. …[a]dedicated time for your family to engage together in growing your understanding of and relationship to God.
  1. Study the Bible with your kids. Really.
    Simply reading the Bible helps kids learn key stories and events. But studying the Bible helps them learn what it all means and introduces them to the importance of interpretation.
  1. Proactively and regularly ask your kids what questions they have.
    …pull your kids’ questions to the forefront of conversation. You don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need to provide the forum.
  1. Ask your kids the tough questions they don’t ask of you.
    …we can’t just react to the questions they happen to have. We need to proactively put all the questions we know are important…right in front of them.
  1. If your kids are struggling with faith, become a detective.
    …find out (1) what exactly they mean when they say what they say, and (2) why they’ve come to that conclusion.
  1. Emphasize critical thinking skills.
     …teaching them how to objectively evaluate the validity of what someone else is asserting and how to draw logically appropriate conclusions themselves.
  1. Work with your kids on how to seek answers to faith questions online.
    Giving your kids research challenges and discussing their process of finding answers can lead to enormously valuable conversations that will benefit them for life.
  1. Teach your kids about religions and worldviews other than Christianity.
     …study and compare the actual beliefs. In addition to other religions, be sure to study the atheist worldview in-depth, given its significance today.
  1. Start today.

(Copyright©2016, pages 249 – 255)

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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