Blogroll: Children Desiring God
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 22 posts from the blog 'Children Desiring God.'
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What if you were to ask your teen the following questions:
- What does the Bible have to say about using Facebook?
- Are you honoring Jesus as you participate in sports?
- Do you have a biblical view of doing your homework?
- Are you wise in the friends you choose?
- Why are the answers to these questions important for your life?
What kind of answers might you get in response? Would your teen be able to explain his or her answers using specific verses and biblical truths? What might the answers reveal about his or her heart?
As these questions suggest, our young people do need a thorough knowledge of the Bible to navigate the many arenas of life. But these questions also reveal the need to go beyond head knowledge, says author and biblical counselor Paul David Tripp.
What a teenager needs, if he is going to live a God-honoring life, is a thorough knowledge of Scripture that allows him to apply its commands, principles, and perspectives to the many different situations that arise in everyday life. He needs to be more than a person who has acquired biblical knowledge; he needs to be a person who is able to approach life with biblical wisdom.
I am convinced that many teenagers are unprepared for the spiritual struggle because they have never been taught to think biblically. They have been in Sunday school, so they know all the familiar Bible stories and they have memorized all of the favorite Bible passages, but these are not much more than isolated, unconnected biblical factoids to them. They haven’t been woven into a consistent, distinctively biblical view of life. The Bible isn’t a way of thinking to these teenagers. It is a book of moralistic stories, a book of dos and don’ts. The result is that, although they have lots of biblical knowledge, they have little biblical wisdom. They do not have a functional, useful, biblical view of life that would keep them from living foolishly.
We must disciple our children to think biblically, to interpret all the facts of life from a biblical perspective. We must teach them to always ask how the Bible can help them to understand whatever they are considering. (Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, 121.)
This is no simple endeavor. Imparting biblical wisdom requires a serious, well-thought-out, intentional, long-term plan that involves both formal biblical instruction as well as relational discipleship. At Truth78, we have taken great care to write all our resources in a manner that serves to foster both. We designed Your Word Is Truth – A Study for Youth on Seeing All of Life Through the Truth of Scripture to help lead teens in developing wisdom.
When Mike and Deb Watters first started teaching My Purpose Will Stand, a study on the sovereignty of God, to their church’s sixth grade class, they were excited to explore big truths with the kids. What they didn’t realize was that God was also teaching them, preparing them for the storms that were ahead of them as a family.
In this interview about their experience, Mike says,
We learned in a new way, and had confirmed what we had been teaching through the curriculum for the past five years, that God has a plan, that He is not surprised, that He is active, that he is continuing to work out His purposes for His glory and that all things will work for His glory. We learned that in a much different way than simply teaching a curriculum. We saw that up close in the front row.
In a day when so much of God’s Word is being watered down and outright rejected, the Watterses’ story shows how God’s big biblical truths prepare all believers, young and old, to stand strong in faith amidst profound suffering.
Have you been strengthened through teaching one of the Truth78 curricula or devotionals? We’d love to hear your story in the comments section, or through email at email@example.com.
Children are amazing sponges and excellent mimics. They have the God-given ability to soak up and recall an enormous amount of information. They also are, to a lesser or greater extent, attentive observers who will act out and imitate our words, demeanor, and actions.
This provides Christian parents and teachers with a great opportunity, challenge, and caution when it comes to nurturing our children and students toward genuine faith in Christ. During their young years, we should take the opportunity to pour biblical truth into their lives — acquainting them with the Scriptures which are able to make them wise for salvation in Christ (2 Tim. 3:15). We must gently challenge and implore them to respond to these truths with heart-felt trust and devotion. But we must also be discerning in how they respond: are they simply affirming truths or embracing Christ as Savior and Lord? Are they simply mimicking Christian responses that they have seen and heard? Are they simply trying to please their parents and teachers? Therein lies the caution.
One thing that is sure and unshakable: God is ultimate in a child’s salvation. His sovereign grace will have the final say, not our efforts nor a child’s immature mind and heart. But we can better serve our children and students by applying wise discernment when we share the gospel with them.
In his excellent book, The Faith of a Child: A Step-By-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child, pastor Art Murphy gives some questions for helping us discern a child’s profession of faith. Here are a few of them,
Can the child explain in his or her own words the basics of becoming a Christian? When explaining how one becomes a Christian, does the child use “good works” answers such as “going to church, reading the Bible, getting baptized, praying, being good,” etc.? Or do his answers mention his need for forgiveness?
Does the child have an affection for Jesus or a strong desire to be close to Him? Does he show a passion to follow Jesus or just a basic knowledge of the facts about Him?
Does the child demonstrate a personal need or desire to repent of his sin? Is the child ashamed of the sin in his life? Knowing what sin is, is not the same as being ashamed of sin. If a child is not repentant but goes ahead and makes a decision to become a Christian, then his decision is premature and incomplete.
Listen to how he talks about salvation. Is there an urgency on his part? Does he have a personal desire to talk about salvation?
Does the child demonstrate a personal desire to make this commitment with his life, or is he just being agreeable with those around him who want him to become a Christian?
Is this a way of getting some undivided attention or public recognition?
What influenced him most to make this choice?
Has his decision come after realizing how much he needs and wants Jesus in his life? (pp. 73-78)
Again, our child’s or student’s ability to fully communicate or articulate conversion is not ultimate in salvation — God is. But these questions are helpful reminders for parents and teachers to pray for and apply great wisdom when our children and students express a desire to repent and believe the good news of the gospel.
Parents, we’ve developed Helping Children to Understand the Gospel, a concise, helpful booklet to use with your children. It includes a 10-week family devotional to help you explain the Gospel to your children, and elxpores the following topics: preparing the hearts of 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.
Teachers and small group leaders, please see “Sharing the Gospel With Children,” a free, two-page guide for use with your students.
God has ordained parents as the primary teachers and disciplers of their children and 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 parents’ calling to nurture the faith of their 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. (“The Sunday School and the Scriptures, No.1866,” www.spurgeongems.org)
For practical help in the classroom, check out our one-page guide, “Ministering to Children from Non-Christian Homes.”
Successfully passing faith in Christ on to the next generation is one of the most important responsibilities Christian parents and ministry leaders are to pursue. It’s also one of the most difficult. Author Chap Bettis talks about the opportunity and challenges:
Passing on the [Christian] faith has been compared to handing off a baton in a relay race. And there are many things to commend that analogy to us. There is a real gospel—the baton—to pass on. It must be passed on individually. The one with the baton has to hold it out, and the one receiving the baton has to reach back for it and close his hand around it. There is a time to pass on the baton, the exchange zone, which does not last forever. All of these are excellent pictures to help us think through this subject.
There is a problem with this illustration, however. We are not handing off the baton at a friendly track meet—rather this exchange takes place on a battlefield! We are attempting to pass on this baton of the gospel while we and our children are being shot at! And what about those observing in the stands? A few are cheering us on, but many in the stands—the world—are laughing at our child’s attempt to run the race. (From The Disciple-Making Parent, p. 8.)
Rather than be discouraged by this, we as parents and ministry leaders should use this as motivation to prepare our children and students to face the challenge. We must arm them with God’s Truth and point them to complete dependence on His sovereign grace. Furthermore, we should provide them with a distinctive, unwavering biblical worldview by teaching them:
- that the Bible is absolute Truth and is totally reliable and sufficient.
- a deep and robust understanding of God’s nature and character.
- that biblical truth is relevant to everything in life.
- to evaluate all things through the truth of Scripture: biblical discernment.
- the enlightening and transforming truth of the gospel.
- that a biblical worldview is meant to point them to true, lasting joy.
- to boldly proclaim God’s truth in a spirit of humility.
- to expect opposition and to be prepared to stand firm.
We can encourage them when they face opposition by:
- Pointing out evidence of God’s grace in their lives.
- Reminding them of Jesus and others who have experienced ridicule and have been hated by the world.
- Praying with and for them on a regular basis.
- Finding older, mature Christians to mentor them.
- Keeping them in the Word and providing devotionals and other resources that will serve to increase their confidence in God.
- Instructing them in Christian apologetics—reasons and arguments for why we believe what we believe—thereby equipping them to vigorously defend the faith.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:22-25).
How easy it is for us to read the Bible, close the pages of this life-changing book, and walk away unchanged. Our response to God’s Word is much like a man who looks at himself in the mirror and forgets what he looks like.
When a man forgets his reflection in the mirror, is it because there something wrong with the image reflected in the mirror? Is the mirror faulty? No, and neither is God’s Word faulty, though we walk away unchanged. The problem is with us. We read but we do not apply; we do not consider what God’s words mean for our everyday lives.
One morning I opened my Bible and read this verse:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (James 3:17).
These are nice words, wise words, good teaching, I thought, as I closed my Bible. But then I stopped. What did I read? What did it mean? I went back and looked at each word and tried to imagine what wisdom from above looks like in various situations of my life. What does wisdom that is gentle look like when I am sitting in a staff meeting and I disagree with what someone is saying? What is wisdom that is pure look like when I am advising my daughter about a decision she has to make? As I thought about each word and its application in various situations, I realized that often I do not display wisdom from above. I committed the verse to memory, and in the weeks that followed, I thought about this verse in various situations in which I found myself. And slowly, day by day, the Word changed me.
This is what we must teach our children to do when they come to the Word. For every lesson we teach and every small group discussion we lead, we should keep in mind that the Bible is not merely information to be learned, but truths to be lived. Without application, we will not grow, and the Word will not change us.
A simple way to teach children to apply Scripture is to ask the “So What” questions:
- So what does this say about God?
- So what does this say about me?
- So what does this say I should do? Be? Think?
If you can lead a child to ask and answer these questions, that child may gain an understanding of what it means to be a doer of the Word. But application does not stop at understanding. Application begins with belief, which then results in being and doing.
It is true that we must be transformed in our minds, enlightened by the truth of Scripture. But the next step is testing; putting the Word into practice. When we do that, we are putting our confidence in the truth of God’s Word, we are affirming His ways, we are trusting God—and the Word changes us.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
by John Kimbell
Is it your expectation that as you give yourself to obedience to Christ and to loving service for others that you will suffer? Or are you surprised by this?
- Do you assume that volunteering to serve in the children’s ministry should bring no difficulties or inconveniences whatsoever into your life?
- Do you assume that committing yourself to consistent, servant-hearted care for the members of your small group will just happen at no cost to you?
- Do you assume that parenting and discipling your children should be trouble-free?
- Do you expect all your neighbors to break down your door to ask you about the gospel, or will it take sacrifice and effort to move into their lives in order to make Christ known?
- Will the unreached peoples of the world hear the gospel without toil and struggle on the part of the church?
- Fill in the blank with the ministry that God has set before you as ask yourself, Do I expect to suffer?
We must not be surprised that the way of Christ and the way of ministry is a pathway of suffering. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (emphasis added), and he rejoiced that through his toiling and struggling to make the Gospel known, and all of the difficulties that were necessary for him to do that, people would hear about Jesus and trust Him as Savior and be saved from their sins.
Paul suffered for the sake of the Gospel. But Paul is not the only one called to share in Christ’s sufferings. He wrote,
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints (Colossians 1:24-26).
When we suffer in our efforts to make Christ known, and to love others in His name, and simply to live as faithful followers of Jesus, we too are called to rejoice. We don’t rejoice in our sufferings for themselves. That would be weird. That would be wrong. Suffering in itself is not something to delight in; instead, we rejoice in how God works through our suffering.
Additionally, we rejoice in how those sufferings confirm our personal identification with Christ. Romans 8:16-17 says,
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
This means that when you suffer as a Christian, your suffering is not meaningless. It is not purposeless. God uses it to serve others. Christ identifies with you in it. He does not look lightly upon your suffering. He even regards it in some sense as His own. This is why you can rejoice in your suffering.
But more than this. Do you realize that this costly pathway is also the pathway of true and lasting joy? Eternal joy will be multiplied in the lives of others through your ministry, and every sacrifice that you make, Jesus says “will be restored to you a hundredfold in this life, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30).
This will not be easy. Paul himself had to toil and struggle and suffer in the proclamation of Christ. But he also knew the glory of the riches of this mystery—Christ in you—so that we don’t do this on our own. We toil and we struggle, yes. But we do so with all of Christ’s energy that He powerfully works within us as we trust and depend on Him.
That’s why the apostle Paul was able to rejoice in his sufferings with Christ for the sake of the body of Christ. We, the church, are called to follow His example, for joy.
John Kimbell is the preaching pastor for Clifton Baptist church.
Recently my husband and I had dinner with our daughter and son-in-law. They made a special dinner and had the table set with the “fancy” tableware. But there was one hitch to this elegant dinner—four children were included, too; our grandchildren, ages 1-to 5-years-old. Let’s just say that the children put a distinctive twist on the ambiance of the meal. Even with all the challenges and distractions, we were glad they were there. Though their parents have employed a type of system for mealtime that minimizes the mess and helps both children and adults, it was a joyful mess!
In a series of posts last year, we highlighted the benefits for welcoming children into the corporate worship service. But like inviting a group of young children to a fine dining experience, there are challenges and some adjustments need to be made. This should be a loving, cooperative strategy involving both parents and church. Often parents just need some practical help and resources. Sometimes the church needs to make a few adjustments and give the whole church community a vision for welcoming children. Below are some resources we believe will be helpful to both parents and churches, as well as the children:
For the Church
“Let the Children Come to Me in Worship” In this video, pastor David Michael lays out a biblical vision and philosophy for encouraging children to be in the corporate worship service.
“Strategies for Engaging Children in the Worship Service” In this audio file, longtime Sunday school teacher and curriculum writer Sally Michael gives very practical advice for parents.
8 Tips for Helping Your Child Worship (free printable brochure)
My Church Notebook, Volumes 1 and 2 are designed to guide first- through sixth-grade students to participate in the service. It teaches them to actively listen to the sermon, take notes, recognize key points, ask questions, and discover more about God and His ways. Students are provided with seven prompts or questions to answer and are given additional space for further notes or drawings.
The just-released released My Church Notebook, Volume 2 includes updated illustrations and borders featuring themes relating to the life of Jesus and His parables, reminding children that Jesus is our great Savior and Lord. With God’s help, children in the worship service can discover who He is, understand more of His Word, and grow in their love for the truth.
India has over a billion people who don’t know Jesus and over a third of them are under the age of 15. Seeing the opportunity for broad Gospel ministry, Patrick Shannon, a member of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, initiated a partnership with Truth78 and Child Evangelism Fellowship India. In only a few months’ time, they reached over 112,000 children with Things Hidden, an evangelistic study for children on kingdom parables produced by Truth78.
Patrick and his wife Kimberly have been partnering with local churches in India for over 10 years–trying to help churches to be better equipped to spread the gospel. Through their engagement, including facilitating VBS programs, one of the things they found was that the churches often lacked updated materials for children. “The materials were somewhat outdated, but also not as theologically sound as I would like them to be.”
Through their involvement at College Park Church, the Shannons discovered Truth78’s curriculum. David Michael, Truth78 founder and Next Generations Pastor at College Park Church, recalls learning about the Shannons’ ministry in India when they volunteered to teach. “It was just an ordinary conversation with a new volunteer small group leader for our 3rd grade class. The Shannons were an answer to our little prayer that God would provide the people we needed to launch our 2016/17 year of Sunday School.”
As the Shannons taught that 3rd grade class, they saw how they could address the need they observed in India. “We saw how powerful the curriculum is and the impact it can have on children, in terms of opening up the gospel and the glory of God.” Putting the two pieces together, Shannon thought, “If there was an opportunity to get these resources translated in local languages in India, it could be a significant tool to teach children about Jesus.”
During their ministry in India, the Shannons saw how children come to faith through VBS programs. “It’s a community event that not only provides an opportunity to share the Gospel to children but also to the entire community.” They found VBS programs to be a great way to reach unreached people groups, since people throughout India, especially in rural areas, will allow their children to participate in Christian meetings or VBS programs. “Normally, at the end of the event, the church and the pastor have an opportunity to explain what the children learned and what the Gospel is.” Shannon explains. “Through that, hopefully, people understand who the Lord is, and the message of salvation.”
For over 80 years, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) has been working to reach children with the Gospel and to disciple them through the local church. In March, Shannon set up a meeting in Bangalore with the director of CEF India, Immanuel Prabhu, to network and try to understand what they were doing to reach the children of India.
Through the conversation, Shannon and Prabhu found a win-win opportunity in partnering together. As Shannon saw how CEF India was looking for materials to fill a void of activity in the summer months, he recognized how VBS can keep CEF India and children engaged throughout the course of the year. “We both quickly came to the same conclusion; if we could use the Truth78 materials and move forward with a translation program, that would be a unique opportunity to reach numerous children with the gospel.”
They decided to focus on Things Hidden, Truth78’s recently revised evangelistic study for children on Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom. The study, designed for VBS and Backyard Bible Clubs, uses hidden treasure as a metaphor for spiritual truth and exalts God alone as the source of spiritual sight and an undivided heart.
CEF India took on the legwork of translating, printing, teaching and distributing the Things Hidden curriculum.
Translators interpreted the curriculum into Hindi (the country’s official language, predominantly spoken in northern India) as well as three languages spoken in southern India, Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada. Partners in Discipleship collaborated with CEF India to ensure the theological integrity of the translation.
Once the translations were completed and approved, CEF India took on the significant project of printing and distribution. Through their broad local contacts, network, infrastructure, and relationships with pastors, they facilitated printing, teaching, training, and getting materials in the hands of people throughout the country.
From the conversation between Shannon and Prabhu in March until the end of June, CEF India completed the translations of Things Hidden and conducted 952 seminars, trained 11,429 teachers, and reached 112,400 children.
“I praise God for the wonderful privilege He has given us to reach boys and girls with the VBS materials from Truth 78 ministries,” reported Prabhu. “I have been thrilled to see the work of God in our VBS program (which we name Summer Bible School).”
In follow up discussions, Shannon found that the materials were well received. “The teachers were very grateful to have sound biblical materials to teach,” he said. “The primary objective was to quickly get Things Hidden translated and get people trained and materials disseminated to spread the Gospel. Now there’s a lot of enthusiasm building about future materials, programs, and distribution.”
Shannon explained that CEF India will use the materials they have already translated for another program in November (when the Dhassara festival will be celebrated) and then in villages where they didn’t have a chance to distribute the material initially.
“We have done only 5% of VBS programs this year,” reported Prabhu. “God willing next year we will have at least 50% of VBS ministries in India through our 50 chapters.” In all, CEF India’s objectives for 2019 are to reach five million children with Things Hidden.
“The numbers are astronomical, in terms of the ability to reach India through ministries using Truth78 materials and the great thing is, once the materials are translated, they can be used for years.”
Shannon hopes to build on the VBS project with another program in multiple languages. “I’d like to expand to a curriculum that could be used to equip the local churches to effectively teach the next generation the Word of God throughout the course of the year. That’s where we want to get this ministry to, where we have a curriculum in the local language and teachers trained to teach children of various ages.”
Shannon sees great need and opportunity for this expansion. “There is a great need and the church is crying for biblical materials.,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to help equip and disciple the Indian church. I just think there’s a wealth of material here and it’s just a matter of how to package it locally and then with some oversight and God’s provision let the church in India run with it.”
“I am very grateful to you for having given us the privilege to reach our children with the Word of God through Vacation Bible School ministry,” Prabhu said in reporting on the initial rollout of the project. “May the Lord bless you for having given us the support and prayers for reaching the perishing little ones for the Kingdom of God.”
“The partnership between the Shannons, CEF India, and Truth78 is exactly what we have hoped and prayed for,” said Brian Eaton, executive director of Truth78. “providing our resources to be translated so that the global next generations would set their hope in God, trusting in Jesus Christ alone.” Eaton added that in addition to the broad distribution CEF India is leading, the translations they produced will be available on the Truth78 Website for free distribution for further ministry use.
“Reading the report on Things Hidden in India took my breath away with praise to God for Patrick and Kimberly Shannon,” said David Michael, Truth78 founder and board chairman, “and it leaves me graciously humbled in worship before our God who is not only ‘able’ but always doing ‘far more abundantly than all that we ask or think….’ (Ephesians 3:20).”
“In that first conversation with the Shannons, I prayed that their ministry would be fruitful,” said Michael, “but never imagined that the fruit would include the translation, printing, and distribution of Things Hidden into Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada for reaching 112,400 children in India—not to mention the gift of a friend for life and a true partner in pursuing the joy of the next generation!”
Imagine the scene: a jumping-jack contest in Sunday school with the teacher pitted against a first grade student. The student easily wins the contest, but the teacher claims the beautiful 1st Place ribbon for herself. The children break out in LOUD disapproval: “That’s wrong. You didn’t win. That’s not fair!” Righteous indignation spews from a group of 30 children over a stolen award. What kind of teacher does this?
The above scene was a carefully scripted part of a lesson in The ABC’s Of God. It served as an illustration to help children grasp an important biblical truth:
for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, (Exodus 34:14)
I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols (Isaiah 42:8).
That God is jealous means that God will not share His glory or the praise and honor He alone deserves. But think about this definition from the perspective of a young child, What? God doesn’t share? Daddy and Mommy tell me I must share. Sharing is good. Why doesn’t God share?
When we give children a concrete illustration – like stealing first place from the true winner – we are helping to set a context for understanding the rightness of God not sharing His “1st Place” position and the wrongness for anyone or anything to try and usurp that position. If the children can feel righteous indignation because a teacher stole a 1st Place ribbon from a student, imagine how much more it is right for God not to share His first place standing! Because God is jealous, He is to hold “1st Place” in our love, devotion, honor, and praise.
This is just one example of how important illustrations are to teaching children. The Truth78 curriculum contains many such illustrations. They are carefully thought out and strategically placed. Many are fun and interactive, but their main purpose is to help the children grasp important biblical truths – especially deep and sometimes difficult truths.
Here is how R. C Sproul explained the importance of using illustrations,
[Martin Luther] said that the makeup of the human person is an important clue to preaching. God has made us in His image and has given us minds. Therefore, a sermon is addressed to the mind, but it’s not just a communication of information — there is also admonition and exhortation. …There is a sense in which we are addressing people’s wills and are calling them to change. We call them to act according to their understanding. In other words, we want to get to the heart, but we know that the way to the heart is through the mind. So first of all, the people must be able to understand what we’re talking about…
That which makes the deepest and most lasting impression on people is the concrete illustration. For Luther, the three most important principles of public communication were illustrate, illustrate, and illustrate. He encouraged preachers to use concrete images and narratives. He advised that, when preaching on abstract doctrine, the pastor find a narrative in Scripture that communicates that truth so as to communicate the abstract through the concrete.
In fact, that was how Jesus preached. Somebody came to Him and wanted to debate what it meant to love one’s neighbor as much as oneself. “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves…’” (Luke 10:29–30). He didn’t just give an abstract, theoretical answer to the question; he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. He answered the question in concrete form by giving a real-life situation that was sure to get the point across. (“The Need for Illustrations in Preaching.”)
The Truth78 lesson illustrations may cause you to gather a few extra visuals and props. Sometimes they’re messy and loud. You may even have to lose a contest to a 7-year-old. But in my experience, those extra efforts are worth it for illustrations that help communicate deep theological truths to young minds and hearts.
For many children, one of their favorite activities of the Sunday school hour is singing. Loud, happy, energetic singing maybe even accompanied by musical instruments, clapping, jumping, and other visibly active expressions. However, as much as I delight in watching a roomful of 6- and 7-years-olds jubilantly sing songs of praise to God in the classroom, I am reminded of these important words from worship leader and song writer Bob Kauflin:
“Worshipping God” means different things at different ages. Younger children, who may not know God yet, may still participate enthusiastically in various external forms of worshipping God. However, we want their worship to be from the heart, and not simply a matter of conforming. They need a clear knowledge of who God is and what He has done. That includes His nature, His attributes, and His works, especially our redemption through Christ. As the Holy Spirit enables them, they will become increasingly aware of their sinfulness before God, accept His gracious gift of forgiveness through the Gospel, and be included among those who will forever be growing in their love for and worship of God. In the mean time, our job is to help them be “dazzled” by the glory of Jesus Christ (quoting Paul Tripp). For one thing that means using more songs that tell us about God than how we feel about Him.
When our 7-year-old raises her hands, sings out exuberantly, and pays attention to what’s going [on], God may indeed have done a genuine work of conversion in her heart. It’s just as possible that she is comfortable with her surroundings and is trying to fit in. True motives are revealed as children grow older. As parents, we should respond to a lack of responsiveness by focusing on internal issues, not merely external ones. Our children’s greatest need is not simply to have “worship experiences” but a come to a saving knowledge of God through His Son, Jesus Christ (“One More Thought on Training Children to Worship God”).
His wise words should serve to undergird our understanding of true worship and direct our preparation and leading of worship in the classroom. Here are at five least implications:
- We must explain to our students the “why” of worship — God is worthy of our greatest love, devotion, trust, affections, honor, and praise.
- We must carefully choose songs that reflect biblical expressions of worship — loud, joyful (not silly or trite), and energetic, but also serious, awe-filled, and reverent. There should be an appropriate balance during the worship time.
- We must always choose songs that reflect biblical truths about the triune God, ourselves, and His work of salvation.
- We must continuously remind our students that true worship of God involves recognizing true things about Him and then having a right, heart-felt response.
- True worship that is pleasing to God can only come from a heart that is trusting in Jesus.
This last point is extremely important to keep in mind when leading children in the worship time. It is fairly simple to encourage children to participate in singing and other outward expressions of praise and doing so is an important part of their biblical education. They are learning the habits and rhythms of the Christian life. But the worship leader should also be imploring, guiding, and encouraging the children toward genuine faith in Christ — making clear that true worship that is acceptable to God can only come about through belief in Christ. We should be aiming and praying that they will, by God’s sovereign grace, be part of the myriads and myriads who will join in everlasting worship of the Lamb (Revelation 5:11)!
We have created a new and helpful training resource for those leading worship time in the classroom. Not only does it give an underlying philosophy of leading children in worship but also provides many practical tips for planning and leading this time. You can access it here.
One of the God-given means for influencing the heart and the will is to encourage students to be active participants in the learning process. Most people would agree that active participation by students creates a positive learning experience. Most of us could even give reasons why this is so:
- Participation makes the lessons more interesting, aids in holding the attention of potential wandering minds, and minimizes boredom.
- Involvement maximizes the possibility that concepts are retained over a longer period of time.
- Discovering truth rather than just hearing it provides a greater potential for truths to be internalized. The critical thinking skills involved in discovery can not only inform the mind, but also offer a more profound impression on the heart.
Though there may be agreement on these reasons, the challenge remains in how to get children involved in the most effective heart-changing ways. Often teachers confuse “activity” with “active learning.” Regrettably, providing opportunities for hands-on activity can become an end in itself. The result may be that the child had a lot of fun but the experience was very time consuming, and while some of the subject matter was absorbed, very little real learning occurred. Active learning on the other hand involves an intentional engagement of the mind; the mind is active, not necessarily the body though both could coincide. Including children in the process of learning by getting up and writing on the board, participating in role plays and demonstrations, putting together visuals—being active while they learn—is often very helpful, especially with younger children.
However, active learning goes beyond activity. 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.
If we merely require children to listen while we tell them what to believe, they may not be comprehending, agreeing with, or internalizing the truth; and the same may be just as true if we ask them to act out a Bible story, retell a story, or recite a Bible verse. How then do we get them to ponder, evaluate, connect, and be impacted by truth?
One means of effective active learning is to encourage children to look at a text in the Bible; carefully observe and rightly interpret the text; make real application of that truth to their own lives; and eventually respond in faith to that truth: to embrace it, own it, live by it—and be willing to die for it.
When children are little, we must tell them much of what they need to learn. They are eager little sponges soaking up knowledge wherever they find it. This is the beginning of the active learning process. Children need to accumulate a storehouse of information in order to eventually interact on a deeper level, making connections, seeking answers to more complex issues, reasoning out solutions, and formulating arguments. By fifth grade, when they can begin to think logically, teachers need to be dialoguing with children, asking thought-provoking questions, and expecting thoughtful, reasoned answers.
By leading children and youth logically through a series of questions designed to point them to correct conclusions, we are encouraging them to discover what God actually says in His Word. Our questions should teach them to observe, interpret, and apply the truth. The mind then becomes a conduit for the truth to reach the heart. God has given mankind amazing mental capacities which can be used to impact the affections of the heart. We should encourage children to exercise their minds for the purpose of knowing God and His Word. This does not diminish the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing a child into a response of faith, but rather is a means of cooperating with His supernatural work.
Apply your heart to instruction
and your ears to words of knowledge.
Each Truth78 curricula lesson is built upon two foundational pillars: the Large Group Lesson which emphasizes instructing the mind with God’s Word, followed by the Small Group Application which focuses on engaging the students’ hearts and wills in response to God’s Word. Both are vitally important in nurturing faith.
I’ve found in my years of teaching that Small Group Application, a vital tool in helping children obey the command to “apply their heart” to what they’re learning in the lesson, can be the most challenging aspect of the classroom time. Trying to focus a small group of giggly 6-year-olds in responding to God’s Word can be a huge challenge. Trying to engage the hearts of sports-crazed 12-year-old boys in spiritual discussion is no less challenging. Small Group Leaders need all the help they can get.
We’ve developed a new Core Training Series document just for Small Group Leaders: Leading Small Group Application. This document will provide you with valuable insights and practical tips for preparing, leading, and engaging students’ hearts and influencing their wills with the Word of God.
Also, don’t miss this inspiring short video in which David and Sally Michael explain the connection between instructing the mind, engaging the heart, and influencing the will (time segment: 2:46 – 8:38).
Christian dads, everything we do should be marked with intentionality—even how we take dominion over our schedules.
Using data analysis, our smartphones and smartwatches can monitor all kinds of details of our lives: our health, our money, our media consumption, and more. My phone often informs me about my schedule. “You have a full day tomorrow that starts early,” it says.
TimeSpent is an app that goes further. Inspired by the late Peter Drucker, who coached leaders to “know thy time,” it helps users complete the exercise Drucker recommended of keeping a log of their time in order to determine what they are doing over the course of 24-hour time periods.
What would such a tool show about your life? What would it indicate about your work, your exercise, or your leisure time? More importantly, what would it indicate about your life as a Christian dad?
Paul speaks directly to Christian dads in his letter to the Ephesians: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Logging The Right Kind of Time
If you were to log your time, what would your schedule say about your attention to this verse? What data would accumulate in your log from time spent disciplining your children in a corrective way, taking your children to church, or intentional family discipleship?
Faithfulness as a Christian father isn’t measured in a specific quantity of hours logged, but our schedules are a reflection of what’s important to us. In The Family Ministry Field Guide, Timothy Paul Jones describes a survey he conducted of Christian parents. He found a large majority understand their responsibility to raise their children in the instruction of the Lord, but they find it difficult to make time to do it intentionally such as through family Bible reading, worship, and prayer.
It’s not that parents are unable to bring their intentions to bear on their schedules. An analysis of time logs for many Christian parents would reveal that many family aspirations related to education, music, and sports somehow make the jump from intention to committed time. This is significant because much of what fills up our schedule as parents tends to be what can be described as secondary parenting goals.
Dr. Jeremy Pierre, a counseling professor at Southern Seminary, explains that an unspoken goal of many parents is “to maximize opportunities for the highest quality education and vocational training.” This leads them to fill up their schedules with sports, music lessons, and other related activities for their children. Pierre recognizes that while such a goal can be important to fulfilling a parent’s mission, it has to be seen as secondary to those primary, mission-critical goals that if not met will result in mission failure.
One of the mission critical, primary goals Pierre identifies for dads, based on Scripture, is to “demonstrate personal commitment to, and enjoyment of, the gospel of Jesus Christ in front of children, instructing them carefully in it.” That’s a well-articulated goal. Notice it’s not about punching a clock and knocking out family discipleship activities—it’s about instruction that grows out of a love for the gospel.
Dads who love baseball and hope to pass along a love of the game to their kids don’t settle for just watching baseball games on TV with their kids, or occasionally playing catch in the backyard. They talk about it naturally in various settings. They sign their kids up for T-ball and everything that follows it. Some even go the significant expense and effort of supporting their children in traveling baseball teams. A dad’s love for the game of baseball will be obvious in his schedule, even to the point of pushing beyond resistance from his kids or enduring the demands of regular practice and games.
Our kids are smarter than any app that analyzes schedules. They quickly discern what we love and what we want them to love based on how we spend our time. Children benefit greatly from hearing Sunday school lessons and sermons from teachers and preachers who love the gospel. But they are also watching to see if you love the gospel and if you want them to love it.
Faithfulness is Key
You don’t have to be qualified to teach or preach in order to demonstrate love for the gospel to your kids. In fact, Paul doesn’t include any qualifications for dads the way he does for elders and deacons when it comes to instruction in the Lord. You can do this.
Much of your faithfulness will come in the form of regularly taking your children to church and talking with them after the service about what they heard, patiently disciplining your children in a way that doesn’t provoke them to anger,I and leading your family in daily prayer. But your children also need to regularly hear you reading Scripture and teaching them from the Bible. That’s why your schedule needs some kind of regular family devotional time.
When I first started trying to get into a devotions routine with my family, I looked to products that had multiple steps and required a lot of front-end planning. I pulled off a few of these but quickly found myself feeling unqualified to execute the model, and frustrated by the need for prep time. As a result, our family devotion time was sporadic, even though I knew it was important to do.
I was grateful for an older friend who encouraged me to scrap the complicated model and simply pick up the Bible and read it to my family. “Just start reading through a book of the Bible, maybe start with the Gospel of John,” he said. “Now that my kids are grown, they tell me that our time together reading the Bible was the most meaningful part of their spiritual formation.”
When I asked him what kind of discussion they had about the text, he said they would talk about what the passage revealed about God and what it revealed about us and our need for Christ—but he said there were many nights his family would simply read a chapter from the Bible, pray for the Holy Spirit to illuminate it, and call it a night.
After taking this approach, our family was able to fit in much more family devotion time than we thought possible and were able to read much more of the Bible as a family than we would have imagined. We’ve even been able to add on to that Bible reading routine, singing worship songs and incorporating devotional resources such as Glorious God, Glorious Gospel.
When you feel under-qualified and crunched for time, you can trust the Holy Spirit to produce fruit from the means of regularly reading the Word to your children, leading your family in regular prayer, lovingly disciplining them, and regularly leading them to church for faithful preaching and teaching.
We probably won’t see an app anytime soon that informs us how our schedules line up with our responsibilities as Christian dads. But we can ask the Holy Spirit to grow our love for the gospel, and our desire to faithfully instruct our children from that love with as much of our schedule as we can, within the limited years God places them in our care.
Find more vision and resources for family discipleship here.
I can vividly remember the incident even though it happened years ago. I had just finished preparing for Sunday’s lesson. It involved teaching just one basic truth to my first grade class: God is eternal. The visuals, props, and lesson notes were ready. The Scriptures being taught were all carefully marked in my Bible. I had rehearsed the lesson several times. I was confident – I’ve got this! And then I was completely undone as I reread the key verse for the lesson:
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:2).
I tried to get my mind around God being from “everlasting to everlasting.” I couldn’t. I was simply blown away by this reality. The one true God had no beginning and will have no end. There is no way to completely grasp this. He is utterly unique and set apart from all creation. I no longer felt like “I’ve got this!” And that was the greatest gift the Lord graciously gave to me in my lesson preparation: I was gripped by His truth. Teaching could now flow from a heart of humble worship instead of a pride-filled self-confidence.
Teaching the next generation the glorious deeds of the LORD and the wonders He has done is both an awesome privilege and a grave responsibility. These are glorious and weighty matters. The sort of teaching that effectively communicates these realities is not merely done by conveying information and facts for young minds to absorb. Effective teaching will also reflect the life-changing power of God’s Word as we, the teachers, are called to personally respond to it.
John Piper has a great word in this regard for teachers and parents,
Teachers and parents who do not exult over God in their teaching will not bring about exultation in God. Dry, unemotional, indifferent teaching about God — whether at home or at church — is a half-truth, at best. It says one thing about God and portrays another thing. It is inconsistent. It says that God is great, but teaches as if God is not great.
Psalm 145:4 shows us another way: “One generation shall praise Your works to another.” Let praises carry the truth to the next generation, because the aim of truth is praise. The aim of education is exultation. So let education model exultation in the way it is done.
That long ago Sunday, I went into the classroom prepared with my lesson. All that tangible, nitty-gritty preparation was important and the lesson flowed smoothly. But most importantly, my heart was prepared, and that changed the atmosphere in the room — truth was communicated with a sense of awe and wonder at the matchless majesty of God. I hope and pray that by God’s grace the children were drawn up with me into that awe and wonder.
 John Piper, “One Generation Shall Praise Your Works to Another,” https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/one-generation-shall-praise-your-works-to-another.
For more spiritual and practical help in preparing to teach kindergarten and elementary age children, see our new Core Training Series resource: Preparing and Teaching a Lesson. This resource will include the following topics:
- Instructing the minds of children with the Bible
- The role of “active” learning in the classroom
- Teaching from a heart of praise
- The importance of prayer in teaching
- General classroom issues
- How to prepare a teach a lesson
Before advocating for teaching children and youth primarily from a printed Bible, I want to fully affirm that the following are true whether we teach the Bible from a digital device or from a traditional printed book:
- The Bible is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)
- The Bible is inerrant and completely trustworthy.
- The Bible is the full canon of Scripture—all 66 books—given to us in written form.
- The Bible is characterized by its absolute authority, clarity, sufficiency, and necessity.
The medium we use does not change or alter the above truths. However, there is something we should not lose sight of: The medium we use cannot be completely disassociated from the message. One media theorist went so far as to famously say, “The medium is the message.” This means that the vehicle – book, TV, iPhone, etc. — used to transmit a message can’t help but shape and even alter the meaning of the message it brings.
There are four reasons why I advocate primarily using a physical, printed Bible for teaching children and youth.
- A printed Bible helps remind our children and students that the Bible is utterly unique, “set-apart,” holy. Consider one example: By the time my grandson was five-years-old, he knew how to use his parent’s iPad and was able to use it to access educational games, videos, family pictures, and more. That same iPad can also be used to access God’s Holy Word. In his mind, the device is a smorgasbord of options. Will God’s Word stand out to him as unique and holy when it is among these other fun options? Won’t it more likely be diminished to merely one more app?
- Using a printed Bible reinforces the entirety of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Every time we look up an individual text, we are reminded that it is tied (and literally “bound”) to the whole of Scripture and occupies a certain historical place (i.e., Old Testament and New Testament).
- A printed Bible lends itself to a better understanding of the permanence and unchanging nature of Scripture. Digital devices lose power, get viruses and bugs, and are constantly being improved upon. Yet my husband still has his grandfather’s Bible from more than a century ago. Will the device your child uses to access the Bible today still be usable in even 20 years? It’s not likely.
- A printed Bible can assist our children and students to make a more personal connection with Scripture and, by God grace, embrace it. I still have the Bible my parents gave me 40 years ago. It has underlining, notes in the margins, and other personal reflections. It records the testimony of how God personally fed and nourished me with His holy Word during those early years as a Christian. Printed Bibles provide this same opportunity for our children and students.
I do believe there is a place for using a digital form of Scripture, whether it be on a device, PowerPoint, etc. There are times and situations where digital may be preferred and beneficial. But in the classroom and for our children’s personal study and devotions, I believe the printed Word is preferable. Even if you use a digital device to prepare your lesson, I would encourage you to read from a printed Bible in the classroom and encourage your students to do the same. This is invaluable modeling for impressionable children.
Finally, I would encourage you to read Matthew Barrett’s article, “Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church.” Although it is directed at pastors, all the principles are applicable to teachers. Here is his conclusion:
No doubt, my warning touches an uncomfortable and irritable nerve. To insult our use of technology is one of the seven deadly sins in the 21st century. Technology infiltrates and saturates everything we do, and therefore defines everything we are, for better or worse. But is this subtle shift changing the way we read the Scriptures? Is it ever-so-quietly removing the visual centerpiece of the local assembly? I think so.
The title of this post is my effort to offer a word of encouragement and hope for those who are at the start of another season of ministry with children and youth. The rest of this post is for those who are having difficulty finding encouragement and hope in the title.
I am taking my cues from the Lord Jesus, whose final words for His disciples span chapters 14-16 in gospel of John. One clear message of this discourse is that trouble is coming.
“I am going away,” (14:28)
“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming” (14:30).
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (15:13).
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (15:18).
“I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (15:19).
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (15:20).
“ They will put you out of the synagogues…” (16:2)
“…the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (16:2).
“A little while, and you will see me no longer…” (16:16)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament,…You will be sorrowful,…” (16:20)
“….you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone” (16:32).
Though these chapters are filled with promises and hope-giving truth, Jesus says enough in them to make the toughest fisherman nervous. Why does Jesus talk about the trouble when there were so many positive and hopeful things to say? Jesus gives us the reason in 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that…you may have peace.” Their response might logically have been, “Really Jesus? You are telling us you’re leaving, and we will be hated and persecuted, cast out of the synagogue, cut off each other, and left weeping and lamenting like a woman in childbirth. This is not making us feel peaceful!”
Notice, I omitted two crucial words from 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace” (emphasis added). We cannot expect our circumstances to give us peace. In fact, Jesus assures us in the next part of this verse that “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; [because in me you will have peace] I have overcome the world.”
Here are the two specific applications of Jesus’ teaching that help explain why the assurance of trouble can give us encouragement and hope for seasons of ministry.
Troubles are common, and no trouble for Jesus
We should not be surprised if trouble comes for us this year. I have been personally involved in 17 September launches. To be sure, the months that followed each launch brought precious fruit, many encouragements, great progress, and much joy in our labors. But never was there a year without troubles, disappointments, discouragements, problems, and difficulties of various kinds. Let us anticipate troubles this year, so that when we encounter them, our hearts are not troubled by them. Instead, let us “take heart” in Christ, and embrace the peace that comes from Him who has overcome the world.
If He has overcome the world to accomplish His purposes, then certainly He can overcome our troubles to accomplish His purposes for the sake of those we are serving in ministry.
Furthermore, few things give us more joy than when we witness such amazing grace in face of such amazing trouble.
Troubles will come for the next generations, we must equip them
As we approach children’s ministry, may we not lose sight of the fact that we are raising this generation for trouble. This adds to the urgency of our labors to teach and equip the next generation. We are preparing them to be hated and persecuted. We are preparing them to be isolated from their loved ones, cut off from their friends, and left weeping and lamenting like a woman in childbirth. We are devoting ourselves to laying a rock-solid foundation of truth beneath them, so that in Christ they will not be shaken when the troubles come. We give our children a God-centered orientation to a world of trouble, so that in the One who has overcome the world, their faith will not fail. We are preparing them in the hope that they will be found in Christ, at the last day, and inherit the eternal joys of a world where trouble will be no more.
Let us also keep in mind that there is probably no better way for the next generation to learn how to keep from being consumed by trouble than by watching this generation rest in the back of the boat with Christ while the storms of our lives rage around us.
Let us take heart! There are many good gifts set aside for us in this next year of ministry. Some are wrapped with great delights, and some are wrapped in great tribulations. But all good gifts are from our infinitely good, infinitely wise, and infinitely sovereign King who has overcome the world.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled,
neither let them be afraid”
The first few weeks of the new Sunday school year can be somewhat chaotic, especially if you’re in a church with large classes or multi-aged classes. Some children adapt very well to the new surroundings while others struggle. Thankfully, parents, a little effort can go a long way toward preparing your children for class.
Your children will be best served when you are joyfully working together with the classroom volunteers to create a calm, spiritual atmosphere. Often, it’s the “little” things that can disrupt the Sunday school hour. Toward that end, there are some very simple, practical ways parents can prepare their children:
- Establish a Saturday evening routine for helping your children get their clothes, Bibles, and other things ready. My daughter does this with her four young children — they choose and line-up all their clothes in one place before going to bed.
- Review any assigned Bible memory, take home sheets (GIFT pages), etc.
- Make sure your children get a good night’s sleep. When our children were young we were very careful not to schedule Saturday evening events that ran too late.
- Make sure your children eat a good breakfast on Sunday morning (please don’t sugar them up). A hungry child is usually inattentive and cranky — and I don’t blame him!
- Use the travel time to church as a means of creating a spiritual atmosphere. For example: Pray together, recite Bible memory verses, sing worship songs or listen to a worship CD, etc.
- Have your children leave any and all electronic devices with you or in the car. Better yet, leave them at home. (Consider doing the same with your devices — a technology Sabbath of sorts. Your actions often have more influence than your words).
- Bring your child to class on time. Allow enough margin to take them to the restroom, and if necessary, have a snack or drink of water between services.
- When dropping your children off at their classes, make sure you convey a sense of appreciation and thankfulness to the classroom volunteers. Your children are watching and listening; you are serving as a model for them as they enter the classroom.
This list seems really simplistic and, thankfully, many parents are already doing a wonderful job of preparing their children. But it is amazing how neglecting just one of these little things can cause big disruptions in the classroom: a wiggling child waving his hand to go to the bathroom in the middle of a lesson; an overly tired and cranky 10-year-old; a fidgety, defiant 6-year-old who’s had too much sugar; a child who is anxious and sad because getting ready for church put the whole family on edge, etc. Parents, a little foresight and planning will go a long way toward serving your children’s spiritual growth in the classroom. You play a vital role in serving the church by preparing your children for Sunday school.
Have you ever experienced the following as a children’s ministry volunteer: a few weeks before class begins you are handed a curriculum, assigned a classroom, and then left to figure out the rest by yourself? I have; and felt completely unprepared and discouraged – it was going to be a LONG year! If you’ve had this experience, you know this approach is not conducive to either the volunteer, or the students, flourishing in the classroom. Yes, it’s possible to overcome the challenges created by a lack of training, but it doesn’t have to be this way; nor should it be the norm.
I am happy to say that for most of my years in children’s ministry, I’ve had the great privilege of being well prepared for the Sunday school year. At a minimum this included:
- Volunteer training sessions that laid a solid foundation including: giving us a vision—the big picture for why this work is a worthy investment of our time and effort—as well as practical help for using the curriculum and understanding classroom policies and procedures.
- All the tools necessary for a well-stocked classroom: whiteboards, easels, visuals, student workbooks, Bibles, small group supply bins, pens or pencils, optional craft supplies, etc.
- Regular encouragement from our ministry leadership throughout the year: thank you notes, classroom visits, praying with and for our team, year-end appreciation meal, etc.
Being fully equipped, trained, and encouraged made all the difference. It helped me be a better teacher year after year and fueled a joyful camaraderie and peaceful calm in the classroom. Most of all, the students were better served as God’s Word was taught with greater clarity and heart-felt joy.
At Truth78, want to help Children’s pastors and other children’s ministry leaders go beyond recruiting, to preparing, their volunteers. Our new Core Training Series is designed to help all children’s ministry volunteers be more fully equipped, trained, and encouraged in their roles. While nothing can replace a well thought-out, hands-on training program by church leadership, the Core Training Series can provide every ministry volunteer with some basic help for flourishing in their roles. Ideally, your church can use these tools as part of a larger, ongoing intentional plan for preparing and supporting volunteers.
Children’s ministry leaders can make the most of this series by distributing these PDFs to volunteers digitally, or as hard copies. Ministry volunteers can print any applicable documents for themselves, and use the full series to make their church’s leadership aware of these new training resources.
Steve and I (Candice) started serving our children’s ministry eight years ago in the two-year-olds’ room when our youngest was two. Since then, we’ve followed him up through the various classrooms as he’s been promoted. This fall, we’ll be teaching he and his classmates, third and fourth graders, To Be Like Jesus. I’ve noticed as we’ve moved to higher grades that finding verses in the Bible still proves challenging for a lot of the students. I figured they’d all know the order of the books of the Bible by now, but that’s not something teachers can assume their students will get in school (espeically non-Christian schools), or even at home. I’m so glad to have the following creative solution from Jill, and look forward to using it in our classroom in the coming weeks.
Teachers, are you looking for a fun and creative activity to help your younger elementary students learn the books of the Bible? Learning this important skill will help children become more proficient in searching for, and finding, Scripture verses in their own Bibles. Try this simple activity in your classroom.
- Approximately 15-20 feet of heavy twine or clothesline rope
- 22 sheets of white (or light-colored) 11″ x 17″ paper
- Color markers
- Fold each sheet of paper in half so that it forms an 11″ x 8-1/2″ sheet.
- Cut each folded sheet into three equal sections (each section will now be about 3-5/8″ x 8-1/2″).
- Write a book of the Bible’s name on each sheet. (If students are just beginning to learn these, you could use a different colored marker for various sections: the Pentateuch, history, wisdom, major prophets, minor prophets, Gospels, epistles, etc.)
- Before class, hide the sheets in the classroom.
- Attach the ends of the rope to two sturdy objects to form a clothesline (or ask two adults to hold the ends of the rope).
When children arrive, instruct them to search for the strips of paper hidden in the classroom. When a child finds one, have him hang it on the clothesline in the correct place. (At first, this will be an approximate location until more and more books are found and hung in order.)
Children can continue to find and hang up additional books until all are in place. Then take the opportunity to recite the books in order as a group. (Consider using a song to do this.)
Ask a child to remove one or two books from the clothesline and then try to recite the books again, inserting the missing book name where appropriate.
- For younger children, begin by using only Genesis–Ezra. In the following weeks, add more books of the Bible until they can successfully complete the entire Old Testament, then move to the New Testament.
- Encourage the children to use the table of contents in a Bible when needed. Learning to look up the books in the table of contents is another helpful skill for becoming more familiar with their Bibles.
- Consider using a stopwatch to time the game from week to week. Encourage the children to beat their previous time as they become more familiar with the books of the Bible.