Archive - Encouragement RSS Feed

Keep Your Children in Worship, for Worship

I remember asking my Dad if I needed to tithe on my small allowance when I was very young. How could a dime make a difference to the work of the church? I wondered. “I think I should wait to start tithing until I have more to give,” I said, as he handed me my dollar. “If I had a hundred dollars and could give ten, it would matter more,” I said. “And it would be a lot easier then, because I’d still have 90 left to spend,” I thought.

“If you don’t learn to do it with a small amount,” he said, “you’ll never do it when you have more. It gets harder, not easier.” I never forgot his wise counsel and have often thanked God for giving me my Dad who taught me the importance of gladly giving back to God. But it’s not just generosity God wants from his people, no matter how young.

He wants their attention. And ultimately, their worship.

It’s easy to look at your squirming, squawking, distracting toddlers and young children and think, surely it will be easier to train them to sit still and listen quietly to the sermon when they’re older. But as with early lessons in giving money back to God, so too, early lessons in giving attention to God have the potential to bear much fruit.

We didn’t start taking our little ones into the service with us until our third child was born. By then, we were attending a mega church where a handful of families who kept their children in the service all clustered together in one area of the auditorium. What started as a practical help to us getting to church on time—thereby avoiding the multi-room, even multi-building drop-off—soon became a matter of conviction. I didn’t realize how formative it could be for young ones to sing along with Mom and Dad, to color quietly while the pastor preached, to ask simple questions on the drive home about what they heard, in an effort to encourage their listening. But I was so glad God changed our minds about taking our kids with us into worship. Just a few other families, amidst hundreds, were enough to help us take courage and break out of the status quo of the “children’s church” model.

It may feel like an overwhelming idea: keeping your children of all ages with you in church. But it is not only possible, it is rich with promise; and likely not as hard a transition as you might fear.

Practice Active Listening

We tend to get good at what we practice. This works to our benefit with piano lessons, but also to our harm with vices. If you hand your child your smart phone or tablet for the short-term gains of keeping her quiet, you will set her on the dangerous path of getting very practiced at tuning out the preaching of God’s Word. You may assume she’ll naturally pay attention when she’s older, but paying attention is something we must work at, no matter our age. We all need help to extend our naturally short attention spans. One of the best ways you can do that is by minimizing, not increasing, distractions.

Sitting quietly and listening in church can be learned by even very young children and it is a worthy goal to level earn how; but not merely for the peace of the people around you in church.

Listen for Salvation

God designed us to believe in Christ by way of our ears. Paul says in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Hearing is essential to salvation. But merely being in the room where the salvation message is preached faithfully is not enough.

The high number of children raised in the church who leave when they become teenagers shows that it is not enough to get your children to church. According to R.C. Sproul, “A recent survey of people who used to be church members revealed that the main reason they stopped going to church is that they found it boring.” What children do while they are in church matters. How many countless people heard Paul preach but to no saving effect? “In one ear and out the other,” so the saying goes. What made the difference? Luke says in Acts 16:14, “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”

Two things stand out as necessary for saving faith: the work of the Lord to regenerate the sinner’s heart, and the active listening of paying attention. This is not a passive posture, but one that anticipates receiving something from the speaker. Pray for your children and with your children that God will give them the ability to pay attention. We have made it our habit to pray as a family in the car on the way to church. My husband asks the Lord to bless the preaching of God’s Word, and to give us ears to hear it. It is so important your children know that you need help to pay attention, too!

Model Joyful Listening

Once there, model paying attention for joy, for love to God, and for being built up by the Word preached. Listening to the active, living Word that is sharper than any two-edged sword, with the power to raise the dead to life and transform them into the image of Christ should not be drudgery. Do your children know you love God’s Word? That you look forward to hearing it preached? Do they see you listening to it and loving it, being challenged and convicted by it, and ultimately, being changed by it?

No matter what you say about the centrality of the Word preached, it is how you behave in relation to it that will have the greatest impact on your children. Your kids need to see you being joyful, expectant, convicted, engaged, transformed—everything but bored. At its heart, the reason quiet listening matters is not primarily so you won’t disturb the people around you—the quiet part—but so that you will hear words of life—the listening part—and be transformed by the Word of Life.

Plan Ahead

A little planning ahead of time can help orient your children to the service and know what to expect.

Set Expectations. Tell your children that the worship service isn’t a time to eat, or talk, or play, but to listen, learn, and believe. Help your children by providing quiet activities that help them listen and serve those in the pews or chairs around them. Consider getting them a church notebook and pen or pencil for drawing pictures of what they’re hearing, and when they’re able to write, to take notes.

Practice. Take an order of service, program, or liturgy—whatever your church provides for following along—and go through it at home, explaining when to speak, when to sing, when to sit, when to stand, etc. Let them know that you want them to join in the activities. Consider listening to the songs that will be sung and sing them together.

Prepare. Feed your children a hearty breakfast so they won’t be distracted by a growling stomach. Take them to the bathroom before the service starts with the goal of remaining in the service without interruption.

It is worth every effort you make to train your children to join in the singing, listen to the preaching, and participate in the praying of God’s Word. This is the path to everlasting life.

*For further encouragement and practical help, Truth78 has created a reproducible PDF for parents and churches, “8 Tips for Helping Your Child Worship.”

 

Showing Honor to Those Who Minister to Your Children

Have you ever been struck by the number of people the apostle Paul mentions at the end of many of his letters? For the most part, we know very little about these men and women. Yet to Paul, they were beloved ministry partners who assisted him in a variety of ways in spreading the gospel and establishing churches. His acknowledgement must have been a great encouragement to each of them; a type of “thank you” to them for their faithful service. But then we shouldn’t be surprised by this since Paul also wrote,

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).

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

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, (Ephesians 1:16).

Church leaders and parents, have you considered how you might acknowledge, thank, and honor the people who have faithfully, week after week, ministered to the children of your church, as well as your own children, this past year? Let me share two brief experiences of being on the receiving end of such gratitude as a long-time Sunday school teacher. One demonstrates what parents can do and the other what church leadership can do.

What parents can do—In my home office, I have a file folder titled, “Encouragement.” In it are notes—simple, handwritten notes from children I have taught throughout the years. Typically, I received 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 of a specific child. Each is a source of lasting encouragement.

Parents, please don’t underestimate the power of your six-year-old’s barely legible “thank you” on a note card to a Sunday school teacher. Consider how you might use the next few weeks as an opportunity to teach your children about showing thankfulness for those who have served them. You might use the above verses as discussion starters and then think of a practical way to apply these verses.

What church leadership can do—For years our church hosted the annual Appreciation Banquet for all children’s and youth ministry volunteers. We were treated to a wonderful meal and/or dessert, a small gift, and most importantly, testimonies from parents and students and message from Pastor David Michael. We went away feeling honored and encouraged (and for many of us, we wanted to “sign-up” to teach again next year!).

Whether you help your children write a simple note, give a verbal—“Thank you so much for teaching!” —or participate in a banquet or giving a small gift, these are just a few examples of encouraging teachers. A little can go a long way toward providing biblical encouragement which builds up the body of Christ and is pleasing in God’s sight.

The Joyful Responsibility of Discipling Our Children

Parents desire many things to be true of our children as they grow and mature. For example, we want our children to be loving, respectful, caring, productive, motivated, resilient, happy, and more. All are good things and worthwhile goals and require some measure of our time and attention as we instruct and train our children toward these goals. But consider these words:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.—3 JOHN 1:4

This simple statement can serve to orient all of our parenting. More than anything else, our children need to know, embrace, and walk in the truth—the truth of God. The truth revealed in His Word has the power to make them wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ—the truth that all-satisfying and everlasting joy is found in Him alone, the truth that saving faith will be evidenced by a life that submits to the Savior and walks in His ways. This goal and aim is reflected in Truth78’s Vision Statement:

If parents are to pursue this God-glorifying vision for our children, we must make sure to carefully prioritize and maximize our children’s spiritual instruction. While there is an important and God-ordained role for the wider body of Christ (the church) in biblical instruction, parents have the primary responsibility and the greatest opportunity to influence their children’s spiritual development. (See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.)  

If parents are to pursue this God-glorifying vision for our children, we must make sure to carefully prioritize and maximize our children’s spiritual instruction. While there is an important and God-ordained role for the wider body of Christ (the church) in biblical instruction, parents have the primary responsibility and the greatest opportunity to influence their children’s spiritual development. (See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.)  

I don’t think there’s a mandate to be found in sacred Scripture that is more solemn than this one. That we are to teach our children the truth of God’s Word is a sacred, holy responsibility that God gives to His people. And it’s not something that is to be done only one day a week in Sunday school. We can’t abdicate the responsibility to the church. The primary responsibility for the education of children according to Scripture is the family, the parents.1

R.C. SPROUL

One thing that often hinders parents in this regard is the pressure of competing demands on our time and energy. These are valid concerns. But consider for a moment these thoughts from Pastor Chap Bettis: 

“Where does discipling my child fit with the other priorities?” Surrounding us are parents making superhuman sacrifices for their children’s soccer practice, hockey practice (5 a.m. ice time?), academic progress, and music lessons (two instruments at the same time?). We can be tempted to follow them. While we may give lip service to discipling our children, the reality comes when we start prioritizing activities.

The apostle John expressed his heart for his spiritual children when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Here lies the crux of the matter: The first battleground of family discipleship is not my child’s heart—it is my heart. Each parent must decide whether he is more concerned that his child be accepted into Heaven, or “Harvard.” We all have “Harvards”—those worldly successes we desire for our children, but the question remains, “Which is most important to me?” Each parent must finish the sentence “I have no greater joy than…”

I would emphasize here that the challenge of priorities is often not the good versus the bad, rather, the good versus the better. Given a finite amount of time, energy, and money, what will you choose?2

CHAP BETTIS

As parents, our first priority must be our desire for our children’s spiritual development. Then we can order our time and energies accordingly. One way to do this is to establish a regular time of formal biblical instruction in the home through family devotions. 

Family Devotions Basics

At its core, family devotions simply involve setting aside a designated time in family life in which to be devoted to God together. Along with reading, interacting with, and instruction from the Scriptures, families often include a time of prayer, a response of worship (singing), and personal application.  

Truth78 Devotional Resources

Most families find it helpful to use published devotional materials designed specifically for families. At Truth78, we currently offer a variety of devotional resources to use in the family.

The Teaching Philosophy and Methodology of Truth78 Devotional Resources

We believe that there is an important progression involved in encouraging our children for a life of faith in Christ. To put it very succinctly: MIND HEART WILL. Children must first be presented with biblical truth for their minds to absorb, ponder, and understand. Knowledge of God and His Word is the essential first step for faith (Romans 10:17). You cannot trust, love, and act upon what you do not know. Next, that truth must go beyond mere knowledge. It must reach and transform the heart so that children might truly embrace, cherish, and love the truth—specifically love of God through faith in Christ. Finally, this love will affect the will as it comes under submission to Christ, producing decisions, choices, words, and actions that are pleasing to God. 

While we must fully acknowledge that only God can bring about this Spirit-wrought, grace-dependent transformation, we believe that it is our responsibility to guide, inspire, and implore our children to make a personal and sincere response to God’s truth in their minds, hearts, and will. Therefore, our devotional resources are designed to instruct the mind, engage their hearts, and influence the will.

Practical Tips for Family Devotion Times

For some, especially those who grew up in the absence of family devotion time, leading family devotions can feel intimidating and stressful. But there are also a variety of things that you can do to create a more conducive environment for your family.

  • Have a regularly scheduled (and child friendly) time for devotions. 
  • Keep track of time—stretch your child’s attention span, but don’t exasperate them. 
  • It is preferred that (if possible) the father should lead the devotional time. 
  • Choose a regular place in your home—one with as few distractions as possible (no TV, etc.). 
  • Begin your time with prayer. 
  • Put any and all electronic devices (e.g. phones, tablets) out of reach. 
  • End in prayer. 
  • In order to motivate a younger child’s attentiveness, consider following your devotional time with a special snack or dessert.

1. From, “The Most Solemn Mandate in the Bible for Parents”, ligonier.org.
2. Bettis, Chap. The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ. (Cumberland, Rhode Island: Diamond Hill Publishing, 2016), 17.

Four Resources for Moms as Disciplers of Their Children

I thoroughly enjoy watching my daughter and daughter-in-law in the throes of motherhood. There is never a dull moment! But amidst all the busyness – a good busyness – my hope and prayer for them and myself is that we not lose sight of what is most important in our mothering: To acquaint our children with the Scriptures so that, by God’s grace, they will be made wise for salvation in Christ and be equipped for every good work, all for His glory. In 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Paul reminds Timothy of the spiritual influence of his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois,

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Mothering with this aim in mind is both a wonderful privilege and serious responsibility. It will require us to provide our children with faithful biblical instruction as well as modeling grace-dependent Gospel-living. I love the way Charles Spurgeon encouraged mothers more than 100 years ago,

O dear mothers you have a very sacred trust reposed in you by God! He has in effect said to you, “Take this child and nurse it for Me, and I will give you your wages.” You are called to equip the future man of God that he may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If God spares you, you may live to hear that pretty boy speak to thousands, and you will have the sweet reflection in your heart that the quiet teachings of the nursery led the man to love his God and serve Him. Those who think that a woman detained at home by her little family is doing nothing, think the reverse of what is true. Scarcely can the godly mother quit her home for a place of worship, but dream not that she is lost to the work of the church, far from it, she is doing the best possible service for her Lord. Mothers, the godly training of your offspring is your first and most pressing duty. Christian women, by teaching children the Holy Scriptures, are as much fulfilling their part for the Lord, as Moses in judging Israel, or Solomon in building the Temple.

(Sermon #1866, “The Sunday School and the Scriptures,” www.spurgeongems.org)

At Truth78, our mission is to nurture the faith of the next generations by equipping the church and home with resources and training that instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will through proclaiming the whole counsel of God. This includes equipping moms. Following are some resources that will serve moms as they nurture the faith of their children, including several booklets that could be included in a Mother’s Day gift:

  • Wife, Mother, Disciple-Maker
    Our vision of motherhood will shape our attitude, our actions, our influence, and the outcome of our mothering. Christian mothers are God’s ambassadors to their children, called to the ministry of reconciliation and discipleship. In this video, Sally unfolds a biblical vision for mothering and gives some practical suggestions for being effective ambassadors in our homes.
  • Mothers: The Disciplers of the Next Generations
    Mothering is a great work; a God-given opportunity to influence the next generations to put their trust in God. This booklet will challenge you to look on your mothering with a biblical perspective, to seize the opportunities God gives you each day to encourage faith in you children, and to rely on Him as your Sin-bearer and Enabler to do the great work He has called you to do.
  • Helping Children to Understand the Gospel
    This booklet explores how you can prepare the hearts of your children to hear the Gospel; discerning stages of spiritual growth; communicating the essential truths of the Gospel; and presenting the Gospel in an accurate and child-friendly manner. Includes a 10-week family devotional to help parents explain the Gospel to their children.
  • Praying for the Next Generations
    What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children? Sally Michael encourages you to consider the spiritual inheritance you can give to the next generation through your faithful prayers. In this booklet, she equips you with a method for using Scripture to pray for your child, grandchild, or the children in your church.

Why “Truth78”?

Truth78 // Why Truth78

Yes, it’s official! Children Desiring God has a new name: Truth78. But in all honesty, I need to confess that this surprisingly “simple” name did not jump out at us quickly. Our leadership and staff spent months considering dozens of possibilities, but slowly, we all became convinced that Truth and 78 best represented our ministry’s heart, vision, and mission.

TruthThese words from John Piper, spoken at our 2011 National Conference, reflect why we landed upon “Truth” in our new name.

If one of the greatest tragedies for children in our age is the attitude that there is no such thing as truth, or that it doesn’t matter, then one of the greatest blessings we can give to children is the passionate conviction that there is such a thing as truth and that it matters at every point in life and eternally.

What is the sum of truth we want the next generation to be passionate about? The answer is: the Bible, with Jesus Christ the incarnate Word at the center. This is the sum of Truth.

The God who made everything, knows everything, controls everything, and has a purpose for everything—this God has spoken to us. He has not left us without the revelation of his will. He has not left us without wisdom. He has not left us without unfathomable knowledge, that none of us ever exhausts. He has not left us without a full and sufficient revelation of the way of salvation, the way of everlasting joy. He has not left us without a way to measure the truth claims of every life-shaping question we face. This is simply a priceless legacy for our children.

(From the message, The Sum of Your Word Is Truth, March 20, 2011.)

What about the 78? If you have ever heard Pastor David Michael share his vision for the faith of the next generations, he often (almost always, in fact) refers to Psalm 78. Here is an excerpt by David and Sally Michael from “A Heart for Ministering to Parents and Children,” a vision booklet written when David assumed his new role as a Pastor for Children and Family Discipleship back in 1996. (more…)

Chicken Soup for Children’s Ministry

Children Desiring God Blog // Chicken Soup for Children's Ministry

I don’t know about your family, but our family has been hit hard with the cold and flu season this year. We are tired and worn out! So I really appreciated the day my good friend Linda showed up at our door with some homemade chicken soup. Oh how good and soothing that soup was! Her thoughtfulness made us feel very loved and cared for. Encouragement from others goes a long way.

In children’s ministry, there are times we, too, need “chicken soup.” We need the “food” of biblical encouragement—words that soothe our souls, cheer our hearts, and build up our strength and resolve to persevere, especially during the hard times. We need to be reminded that the work we are doing, when done for the Lord and in His power, is never in vain. (more…)

Dripping Bible for the Next Generation

Children Desiring God Blog // Dripping Bible for the Next Generation

Recently, my husband and I were driving with four of our grandchildren. While waiting at a particularly long traffic light, Grandma (me) had finally had enough. “Stupid traffic light!” I muttered, none too softly. A while later, we sat at another traffic light. This time I kept my mouth shut. But in the backseat, 2-year-old Nate filled the void, saying, “Stupid traffic light!” He went home knowing a new phrase to say when waiting for traffic lights. (Won’t his mommy and daddy be glad!) He simply heard and repeated what Grandma had said. Grandma has a problem. Grandma spoke out of a grumbling, sinful heart.

Imagine for a moment if I had said something like this instead:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances;” even for long waits at traffic lights,for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (more…)

When a Child Goes Astray

Children Desiring God Blog // When A Child Goes Astray

Long ago and far away, I had this little equation in my parenting mind: If we do all the right spiritual ABCs with our children, then God will bring about saving faith in their young lives (by 7 years old)…and just like that, in no time at all, our children will become faithful, fruitful followers of Jesus, doing great things for the kingdom by the time they are 12! That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? Needless to say my little “salvation equation” for my children was naïve, to say the least! Real-life experience showed a more complicated path. Sometimes that path was confusing, heartbreaking, and even terrifying.

Here are some words from Kim Shay that I found really heartfelt and hope-filled for parents who are experiencing concern over their child’s spiritual condition:

In a perfect world, Christian parents would teach their children the gospel, and it would be embraced quickly, and without incident. Children would go seamlessly from childhood to godly adulthood without a blip on the screen.
As we know, we don’t live in a perfect world. And the reality is that good Christian parents raise children who give them some sleepless nights and break their hearts. I know what that is like. If you have children who never gave you a moment’s trouble, praise God for it! But for those of us who have had children who stray or struggle in their faith, it can be extremely painful. We feel shame and guilt. We may feel anger. But we must not despair. For those who may be in the midst of that kind of season, here are some thoughts.
(more…)

Bible Reading Tips for Kids

Children Desiring God Blog // Bible Reading Tips for Kids

Bible reading plans for kids are great resources to help your children develop the habit of daily Bible reading. (See last week’s post here.) But along with a reading plan, here is a crucial reminder from Sally Michael for you to share with your children before they begin:

…you can read the Bible with your mind only and walk away with just information. You may know a little more, but it hasn’t changed you. You can also read the words but harden your heart against their convicting and healing power.

We are blind to the truth in God’s Word. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will read words but we won’t see spiritual truth. We are unable to open our hearts to the power of the Word of God. We desperately need God’s help.

(more…)

Encouraging Your Children to Read the Bible In 2018

Children Desiring God Blog // Encouraging Your Children to Read the Bible

A new year is soon upon us and, for many adults, it is a time to begin a new Bible reading plan for 2018. But what about your children? Do you have an age-appropriate plan for them? Are you helping them to include Bible reading as a regular, daily, beneficial habit? David Murray has an excellent post regarding this. He starts the post with this question:

“How can I get my kids to read the Bible for themselves?” I’ve been asked that by many frustrated Christian parents. I’ve asked it myself!…Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experience and from talking with many parents and pastors.

He then outlines six ways to encourage your children in Bible reading:

  • Make it a priority.
  • Make it a joy.
  • Make it a habit.
  • Make it do-able.
  • Make it accountable.
  • Make it Gospel-centered.

(more…)

Page 1 of 2912345»1020...Last »