Blogroll: Children Desiring God
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Children often grow up believing, on the basis of the cultural messages all around them—as well as the actions of their parents—that God owes them comfort and their “best life now.” But Scripture tells us otherwise. Jesus told us that “in this life you will have tribulation,” Peter said we should not “be surprised when the fiery trial comes upon us to test us, as though something strange were happening to us,” and James commands us to “count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds” (John 16:33, 1 Peter 4:12, James 1:2).
How then should parents talk to their children about suffering? And what, if anything, should they do to prepare them for it? Steve Watters, communications director for Truth78, sat down with Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie to ask how parents can help their children process and prepare for suffering. Nancy and David Guthrie experienced the death of two of their children and now lead respite retreats for parents in similar seasons of suffering.
T78: How do children learn from parents how to face suffering?
Nancy Guthrie: Most of us as parents think that the primary way we teach our children about suffering, or anything else, is by what we say to them. David and I talk with lots of couples where someone in the family has a cancer diagnosis or something like that and they wonder, “how am I going to talk to the kids about this?” I don’t think though, that it’s primarily through what we say to our children that our children learn the most. I think the primary way they learn about suffering, how to think about it, how to feel about it, how to talk about it, is by what they observe in us.
If, when we’re going through a season of suffering, they observe anger, they’re probably going to absorb a sense of “this is not right; somebody out there has wronged us; God has wronged us”–they’re going to absorb that angry response. Also, they’re going to absorb an attitude about how things work in the world, that I deserve something different than to experience the brokenness of this world that is universal to everyone in the world. Kids can absorb a sense of presumption that somehow, I shouldn’t have to experience this, and surprise about suffering.
One thing we do have to say as parents is that the word of God tells us, “don’t be surprised at suffering. This is common to everyone in the world.” The Bible’s message about suffering is expect to suffer. Know that God will be with you in this suffering and your suffering is not meaningless, but purposeful. If you belong to Christ, your suffering is not meaningless, but purposeful. He can and will use it to accomplish in your life, and in the world around you, His good and glorious purposes. As you believe that, you can transmit that to your kids.
T78: What are the consequences when children don’t hear that, when they aren’t prepared for suffering?
NG: When they do experience suffering, they become hard and bitter toward God. They can see themselves as victims, rather than disciples who are living in a broken world, anticipating that part of living in this world that’s under a curse is experiencing the suffering of this world. They need to have a sense that this life is not all there is. Isn’t that something our kids need to understand more than anything else? They’re not going to get that message from the world, television, their friends at school, the culture around us—those are always telling us: this is where life is; this is where you’ve got to make a mark on this world; this is where you’ve got to grab all the Gusto you can get, in the here and now; you can be anything you want to be. People think this is some kind of self-empowerment message for kids.
I think a far better message is, “you can trust that God will work in you, to call you to His purposes, and will equip you to do and be all that He’s called you to do and be.” That’s a God-centered view that sets some expectations for your life in this world, rather than setting this expectation that you’ve got to accomplish your dream; you’ve got to become somebody. That sets kids up for bitterness when all of those things don’t happen, instead of acceptance of the sovereignty of God in their life.
T78: When we face suffering, what does that suffering tend to reveal in our lives?
NG: My husband David and I host weekend retreats for couples who have lost children. We’ve done retreats the last two weekends, and last weekend, there were a number of couples who were verbalizing their anger toward God. One way I pushed back on that is to say, “Whether it’s anger toward God or anger toward any person or situation, anger reveals an expectation—I expected this would be different. If I’m angry at you, it’s because I expected you would do or say something different. You have done something I didn’t want you to do, or you didn’t do something I expected you to do. Our frustration when the car breaks down or when somebody damages something of ours, reveals we have an expectation that these things shouldn’t happen to us.
Similarly, in terms of anger with God, a lot of times that’s based on having expectations of who God is and what He ought to be doing in our lives. We think that if we have been so smart, so spiritual, to choose Him, that now He’s got to do His job and His job should be to protect us from suffering in this life, and to bless us; to fulfill all these things we want to do and be in this world.
We sometimes have this expectation that God is our servant rather than we are His servants; expectations that God’s role is to give us the life that we think will be best for us, that we think that will be more comfortable. When those are our expectations, and suffering comes into our life, it makes complete sense that we’d be angry with God. The anger reveals the assumption and the expectations.
What I challenged those couples to do at our retreat was to say, “Identify what your expectations were, and then ask the question, on what basis did you expect that?” What that reveals, first of all, it kind of forces us to say, “I thought God was going to take care of me so that I wouldn’t have to suffer. I thought all my prayers for my kids were going to mean that I wouldn’t have to bury one of my children.”
Then you go onto the next question, “On what basis was that your expectation?” Then you ask, where do you see this promise in the Scripture? What that actually gets at a lot of times is the errors we make in interpretation; the promises we read in the Scriptures that we misunderstand, or misapply. Once you get to that point, you can deal with it.
Recommended reading on teaching children about suffering:
One hymn I learned early on was Standing On the Promises by R. Kelso Carter. The hymn included these memorable and reassuring words:
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.
Though I had the words and tune memorized, I don’t remember anyone actually describing and explaining what these promises were. What was I supposed to be standing on?
Here are 28 promises found in the Bible—all given by a faithful God who ALWAYS keeps His promises—that our children should know and can depend upon:
- salvation for everyone who truly repents and believes in Jesus.
- eternal punishment (hell) for everyone who does not repent and believe in Jesus. (Yes, our children need to know that some promises are dreadful!)
For God’s children, those who trust in Jesus, God’s promises include:
- God will be with you everywhere, at all times, watching over your life.
- nothing can separate you from God’s love.
- complete forgiveness when you confess your sins.
- God will complete His work in you, making you more and more like Jesus.
- you will bear fruit (good works).
- God will hear your prayers.
- He will guide you to know what is right.
- God will provide for your needs.
- He will not withhold any good thing that is good for your life.
- God will fight for you and act on your behalf.
- He is slow to anger and is patient with you.
- God will give you strength.
- though you may stumble, God will sustain and hold you.
- God will discipline you for your good because He loves you.
- He plans good for you, and He brings new mercies every day.
- God will be with you in hard times.
- He will not bring any unnecessary suffering into your life.
- If you remain steadfast under trial, you will be rewarded.
- God will keep you from ultimate harm and guard your soul and faith.
- He will deliver you from all your troubles.
- God will end suffering for His children and turn it to joy.
- All things will work together for your good.
- God will never forsake you.
- He will never forget His promises.
- God is not slow in keeping His promises—His timing is perfect.
- eternal life—living forever with Jesus!
We have developed two resources to help your children learn and explore these promises in the Bible, as well as how the promises are meant to be embraced and applied to our lives.
Faithful to All His Promises: A Study for Children on the Promises of God
Grade Range: 2nd Grade-4th Grade, 40 lessons
Children will not simply learn about some of God’s promises, but rather, they will discover what it means to trust in those promises, which are God’s gift to us, not something we deserve. Faithful to All His Promises begins by teaching children what a promise is, what makes God trustworthy with these promises, and who these promises are for. Then children get to explore some specific promises from God to see how He has been and will be faithful to each of those promises.
Family devotional book:
This book is adapted from the curriculum and is a read-aloud and read-along book for parents with early elementary-age children. Each chapter ends with personal application and activities, and includes full-color illustrations. (120 pages)
When it comes to understanding and articulating cultural shifts in light of biblical truth, Dr. Albert Mohler is a welcome source of clarity, exhortation, and encouragement. Joe Eaton wrote a summary of Dr. Mohler’s message Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform from our last National Conference, which pointed to three Ds from Deuteronomy 6 that we, as parents and teachers, can take to heart.
The dominant culture tends to replicate itself in each new generation. This is why Paul calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12). The last thing that should surprise us is that our children are going to grow up to look like the culture around them…unless a great work is done. Deuteronomy 6 tells us how we can influence our children biblically to remain steadfast in an ungodly culture. Three key words guide us through this text.
What this passage teaches us about how we must teach is that teaching must be inescapably theological and central. Another crucial aspect of teaching is what narrative you are teaching. We need to make sure that we teach our children that we are not here by accident; God did a saving work that brought us into being, and a saving work that brought us into covenant with him. This is the narrative we must teach. If we don’t know that our redemption story is infinitely greater than worldly stories, we will not effectively reach the hearts of our kids.
We are facing a situation in which our children are going to become Canaanites if we don’t impart truth to them in such a way that helps them own it, and sometimes that will mean going against the culture or their own desires. Helping our children learn discipline in this way will serve them always.
Every opportunity is an opportunity to teach your children, whether effectively or ineffectively. Don’t give up; you’re going to have to teach your children the same things very often, because your children don’t always retain things very well.
Cultural Pressure to Conform
The cultural pressure to conform to the evils of our culture is so pervasive that Christians have begun to underestimate the urgency with which we ought to fight it. This pressure has always existed and has grown since the Garden of Eden.
Whole Counsel of God
We need to be teaching our kids that God is God, and his Word is ultimate no matter what our culture says. We need to be diligent to teach our kids the truths that are particularly disputed in our culture right now, because those are the truths that will become hardest for them to believe when they face cultural pressure to conform.
Don’t spend time lamenting what we believe might have been lost in our culture. Remember that Jesus is going to hold us fast as we seek after him. Let’s hold fast our confession, and teach our children to do the same.
This message is included in the book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, which is available for purchase in print or as a free download for anyone who signs up for the “Joy for the Next Generations” e-newsletter.
Summer is an ideal time for reading to refresh and energize the soul. For anyone who teaches children and youth it’s also an opportunity to become a better teacher. At only 152 pages, Teaching to Change Lives: Seven Proven Ways to Make Your Teaching Come Alive by Dr. Howard Hendricks is filled with practical, biblical, seasoned wisdom that is helpful for both new and experienced teachers alike. At Truth78, we highly recommend this book. Our curricula’s teaching philosophy and methodology closely mirrors the principles found in his book.
Here is a brief summary of the seven principles, or “laws” Dr. Hendricks describes followed by examples of how Truth78 curricula implements each:
The Law of the Teacher— If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow…You cannot communicate out of a vacuum. You cannot impart what you do not possess. If you don’t know it—truly know it—you can’t give it.
Truth78 encourages teachers to take time to prayerfully study each lesson and make your own personal application.
The Law of Education—How people learn determines how you teach.
Truth78 incorporates a teaching philosophy, methodology, and format that is age-appropriate, interactive, and teacher friendly.
The Law of Activity—Maximum learning is always the result of maximum involvement. That’s true, with one condition. The activity in which the learner is involved must be meaningful.
Truth78 encourages students to interact, first and foremost, with the text of Scripture: questioning, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, drawing conclusions, and applying God’s Word. Interactive illustrations and other activities are also used to help students better grasp biblical truth.
The Law of Communication—To truly impart information requires the building of bridges. All communication has three essential components: intellect, emotion, and volition—in other words, thought, feeling, and action. If I know something thoroughly, feel it deeply, and am doing it consistently, I have great potential for being an excellent communicator.
Each lesson of our curricula includes material that serves to instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will.
The Law of the Heart—Teaching that impacts is not head to head, but heart to heart. To the Hebrews, heart embraced the totality of human personality—one’s intellect, one’s emotions, one’s will. Teaching happens when one total personality, transformed by the supernatural grace of God, reaches out to transform another personality by the same grace.
Each lesson includes a significant “Small Group Application” section to encourage and challenge students to personally embrace and apply God’s truth to their lives. Spirit-dependent prayer with and for the students is an essential aspect of this time.
The Law of Encouragement—Teaching tends to be more effective when the learner is motivated to learn. As a teacher—a motivator—you want to help people develop into self-starters. You want them to do what they do, not because you ask them or twist their arm, but because they themselves have chosen to do it. One of the best ways to trigger this choice is to help the learner become aware of his need.
Our lessons are written to fuel spiritual desire by giving students a big vision of the greatness of God and His all-surpassing worth. We continually point students to see that eternal, all-satisfying joy is found in God alone, through faith in Christ.
The Law of Readiness—The teaching-learning process will be most effective when both student and teacher are adequately prepared.
Truth78 provides curricula components and other training to help teachers prepare for the lesson. Additionally, we include practical resources and ideas for helping students in preparation for the lesson material.
These descriptions are too brief to do justice to his main points and practical applications. I urge you to read the whole book. And if you’re a ministry leader, consider buying several copies this summer to pass on to your teachers and small group leaders. It is a wonderful training resource.
As a conclusion to his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told a story that, for generations, has been famous among Sunday school children and, for decades, has captured the desire of our hearts for the next generations:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it (Matthew 7:24-27).
We don’t want to raise a generation of fools who grow up hearing, yet neglecting, the words of Jesus. We want our children to be among the wise in their generation. We want them to be equipped for living by faith in the Son of God, walking in His ways, trusting Him in every circumstance, standing firm against the schemes of the devil, forsaking the things of this world and the desires of the flesh, laying up treasures in heaven, holding fast with confidence in His goodness, resting in His sovereignty, running with endurance the race that is set before them, persevering in the full assurance of hope, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, standing on the promises of God, and enduring in an unshakable faith when the inevitable storms of life blow and beat against them. The fruit of this unshakable faith is an indestructible joy.
As Jesus’ final hour was approaching he warned his disciples that the storms were coming. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). On the night before He endured the cross, Jesus said, “Truly, truly…you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful…” But on the heels of that warning, Jesus quickly assured them that their “sorrow will turn into joy….and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:20-22). In other words, the fruit of their unshakable faith was an indestructible joy.
For more than 20 years, the pursuit of this indestructible joy for the next generations has been the heartbeat of Children Desiring God (now Truth78). On several occasions during this span, God used many voices to inspire, encourage, and support thousands in this pursuit as men and women from across this country and around the world gathered in Minnesota, and once in Indiana, for our national conferences. The book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations is an effort to gather a taste of these timeless messages into one place with the prayer that they will continue to inspire, encourage, and support thousands more. As you read the words of these servants, and perhaps listen to their original messages below let them serve as a reminder of this pursuit that has defined our ministry.
Listen to the full conference messages related to each book chapter:
No Greater Joy
Declaring the Whole Counsel of God
Bruce A. Ware
Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God
Teaching the Difficult Doctrines of God
Timothy Paul Jones
Equipping the Family to Do Discipleship
Sovereign Grace and the Salvation of Children
No Longer Tossed To and Fro
Albert Mohler, Jr.
Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform
Wayne Grudem (messages referenced in Afterward)
Teaching the Richness of the Entire Gospel, Part 1
Teaching the Richness of the Entire Gospel, Part 2
In our desire to lead children to faith in Christ, parents and teachers can feel overwhelmed by all they want and need to teach children. Have you ever wondered what’s most important to teach children about the Gospel? Following are 10 essentials:
1. God is the sovereign Creator of all things.
Scripture: Psalm 19:1, Psalm 22:28; Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 44:24
Implication: God made you. You belong to God. God is your ruler.
2. God created people for His glory.
Scripture: Psalm 29:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; 1 Corinthians 10:31
Implication: God created you to know, trust, and love Him most of all.
3. God is holy and righteous.
Scripture: Leviticus 19:2, 37; Deuteronomy 32:4; Romans 7:12
Implication: God is holy and righteous. God’s commands are holy and righteous. You must obey God’s commands all the time.
4. Man is sinful.
Scripture: Romans 3:10-18, 20, 23
Implication: You have disobeyed God’s commands. You are a sinner.
5. God is just and is right to punish sin.
Scripture: Isaiah 59:2; Romans 1:18; Romans 6:23a
Implication: You deserve God’s punishment of death and hell. You are helpless to save yourself.
6. God is merciful. He is kind to undeserving sinners.
Scripture: Psalm 145:8; Ephesians 2:8-9
implication: You must depend on God’s mercy in order to be saved.
7. Jesus is God’s holy and righteous Son.
Scripture: John 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:15
implication: Jesus came into the world to save you.
8. God put the punishment of sinners on Jesus, so that His righteousness might be put on them.
Scripture: Isaiah 53:5; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24
Implication: Jesus died on the cross to be punished in your place.
9. God offers the free gift of salvation to those who repent and believe in Jesus.
Scripture: Mark 1:15; John 3:16-17; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9
Implication: God tells you to believe in Jesus and repent of your sins and you will be saved.
10. Those who trust in Jesus will live to please Him and will receive the promise of eternal life— enjoying God forever in heaven.
Scripture: Luke 9:23; John 11:25; 1 John 2:15; Psalm 16:11
Implication: If you are trusting in Jesus for your salvation, you must follow Him. Jesus has promised that when you die He will bring you to heaven to live with and enjoy God forever.
These essential truths are excerpted from the booklet Helping Children to Understand the Gospel which includes a fuller explanation of these essential truths and child-appropriate teaching of them. In addition this resource helps parents discern stages of spiritual growth and prepare the hearts of their children to hear the Gospel.
As school winds down for a longed-for summer break, teachers and librarians everywhere are urging kids to use the less-scheduled days reading books. “Read for fun! Read for retention! Read for prizes!” It seems there’s no shortage of incentives to make the most of free reading time.
As fun and beneficial and wonderful as leisure reading is, it matters what children are reading. A mix of book types: biography, fiction, nature, informative, poetry, and more can make up a healthy well-rounded reading diet. But there is one area that is often overlooked, yet most necessary: books for spiritual formation.
Truth78 is committed to helping parents pursue the God-glorifying vision of leading their children to walk in the truth. As we’ve said, one way parents do this is by carefully prioritizing and maximizing their children’s spiritual instruction. And one of the key ways to do that is to guide children in their book choices.
In addition to teaching your children how to have a regular, daily time reading their Bible, summer is a good time to encourage them to also read devotional books for spiritual growth. Books that work well for family devotions can also be spiritually edifying reading for older children with more time available for reading in the summer. Revisiting a book that you’ve read together, in order to work through it on their own, can be like hearing new stories while visiting with an old friend.
If you’re looking for a gentle way to introduce grade school children to personal devotional reading, consider the Making Him Known series. Each book focuses on what Scripture teaches about one aspect of God’s deeds: God’s Promises, God’s Gospel, God’s Wisdom, etc. Each chapter of each book reveals some aspect of His “glorious deeds, his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4). Each chapter also includes a section, “Learning to Trust God,” which calls children to respond by setting “their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7) through Christ.
To read more about the Making Him Known series, and to order your copies, visit our online resources page.
It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized I had huge gaps in my theological education. I had had minimal exposure to the entire content of Scripture and a very limited grasp of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Some doctrines were minimized, skewed, or missing entirely. Although a believer for 10 years, I was very immature and this immaturity tainted every aspect of my daily life, including my marriage and parenting. Theological gaps make a big difference in how we will think, feel, speak, and live!
At Truth78 we are earnestly and deeply committed to giving our children and students a theological education that equips them to become mature disciples of Jesus. We believe that involves acquainting them with both the breadth and depth of Scripture—teaching them the whole counsel of God.
In Acts 20:27 Paul writes, “for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
D. A. Carson makes the following observation about this text,
What [Paul] must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively.
[Paul’s teaching] embraced:
- God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
- an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope),
- the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
- the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).
Acquainting children and students with the Scriptures in this manner will involve exposing them to the actual content of Scripture while also emphasizing a core set of essential truths (doctrines) regarding the Christian faith. In conjunction with this there must be a focus on a call to personally respond to those truths (relational). Both are important so we must stress both the doctrinal and relational aspects of the Christian life. Our teaching resources are designed to emphasize and carefully balance these two.
One way to evaluate whether or not we are teaching our children and students the whole counsel of God is to see if they can answer these crucial questions, with increasing biblical depth, as they grow and mature:
- What is in the Bible? Who is the Bible about?
- What is the main message of the Bible?
- What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?
- Why do we need to be saved? How are we saved?
- How are we to live?
We have identified and incorporated the following five elements (theological disciplines) into our curricula scope and sequence and other teaching resources. We believe that these five elements, interspersed at different ages and emphasized to varying degrees throughout these ages, comprise an appropriate breadth and depth of Scripture needed for teaching the whole counsel of God.
- Bible Survey—a chronological overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In our curricula this is first introduced in the preschool years, by a story-based presentation that introduces children to the key people, places, events, and themes of the Bible. Most importantly, it emphasizes God as the Author and main character of the Bible. This provides children with a fundamental biblical foundation upon which the other elements will be built. Addresses: What’s in the Bible? Who is the Bible about?
- Biblical Theology—introduces students to the main storyline of Scripture, whereby God progressively reveals His redemptive purposes, which come to their complete fulfillment in the person and work of Christ, for the glory of God. Students are taught to see that the Bible’s many diverse stories, written over time, all serve to communicate one main unified message. Addresses: What’s the main message of the Bible?
- Systematic Theology—a topical approach in teaching the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. Systematic theology presents the Bible’s teaching on various subjects, one at a time, and summarizes each topic based on the entirety of Scripture. Addresses: What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?
- Gospel Proclamation—an explicit and comprehensive presentation of the essential truths of the Gospel, leading to a clear understanding to the person and work of Christ and what it means to respond in true repentance and belief. Addresses: Why do we need to be saved? How are we saved?
- Moral and Ethical Instruction—acquainting students with the nature, role, and importance of God’s laws and commands, the wisdom literature, and the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This instruction is necessary for understanding God’s character and standards and our need for the Gospel, and for guiding believers in righteous and godly conduct. Addresses: How are we to live?
For further reading on the importance of teaching the next generation the whole counsel of God, I highly recommend two chapters from our book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, “Declaring the Whole Counsel of God—What’s at stake for our children” by Mark Vroegop and “The Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God—From grand story to grammar, it all matters” by Bruce Ware.
 Preach The Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 177-178.
As a parent and teacher I find these words from Jesus especially sobering,
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me… (Matthew 15:8-9)
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:26-27)
We can teach our children and students a lot of biblical information–and so we should. We should acquaint them with as much Scripture as possible; it is the only means of making them wise for salvation in Christ and living in a way that is pleasing to Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We want their minds to know, understand, and be able to rightly interpret the Bible. However, as Jesus’ words remind us, it is not enough to simply receive knowledge about God. The child who has memorized the most Bible verses in your class, or is always first to find a passage in the Bible, may have a heart far from the Lord. Genuine faith in Christ also involves the heart and will. To leave these unaddressed in our teaching is dangerous–eternally dangerous.
That is why we at Truth78 create resources that aim to instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will. Instruct, engage, and influence–words chosen carefully to define our responsibility while humbling admitting our complete dependence on God to renew the mind, transform the heart, and empower the will of the children and students in our care.
Watch this informative and inspiring 12 minute video in which David and Sally Michael explain the role of the mind, heart, and will in the faith of the next generations. They also give practical examples from their teaching experience of how you can encourage these three aspects of faith in the lives of children.
Have you ever looked at a Magic Eye picture? The page is covered with repeated designs that are very apparent to any viewer. But, for those who have eyes to see in a new way, you can also see a three-dimensional hidden picture. Many people never see the hidden picture. They only see the surface picture and never really understand that there is a more beautiful picture within the easily seen picture.
So it is with Jesus’ parables. Beyond the mere words of the parables are deep, hidden spiritual truths—truths like the Kingdom of God is a treasure worth more than all we have, God welcomes repentant sinners with great celebration, and God seeks the lost.
These truths are hidden truths unless one has been given the spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear them. Their beauty and worth are denied, misunderstood, or rejected by those whose eyes are blind and ears are deaf to spiritual truth. To see and hear the hidden things of God requires spiritual eyes and ears. Hunger for spiritual truth requires awakened senses, and to love the things of God requires a new heart. (See Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26.)
God alone is the source of spiritual eyes and undivided hearts. Only He can make blind eyes see, deaf ears hear, dead taste buds hunger, and hardened hearts soft.
It is my prayer and desire that through this brief study of some of the parables of Jesus—earthly stories with hidden meaning about the Kingdom of God— God may be pleased to open the eyes of the blind, heal the ears of the deaf, and soften the hearts of the hardened.
The thoughts above are expressed in the preface of the Backyard Bible Club/Vacation Bible School curriculum, Things Hidden. Perhaps you have taught the material and have seen the power of the Word of God to open a child’s eyes to spiritual truth. Perhaps you have had the privilege of seeing God at work through His Word to create spiritual hunger in a child… or the unparalleled joy of seeing a child’s heart respond in simple faith. If so, you know that the parables in the Bible are powerful. Might you want to be part of imparting these great spiritual truths to a group of children in your neighborhood or your church? If so, you may consider exploring the newly revised version of Things Hidden.Discover the Revised Things Hidden Curriculum What’s new about it? Reformatted lessons
Lessons match our Sunday school curriculum format to make it easier to teach. Page flow has been improved with clearly indicated visuals and easy to follow teaching instructions and text. In addition, lesson concepts are more clearly explained and the application section has been expanded and improved.All new visuals and additional resources
New student project
The visuals for Things Hidden are all new designs with original illustrations. Several additional resources are also included such as a puppet show script and promotional posters and postcards to invite people to your VBS or Backyard Bible Club.
The student project for the curriculum is now a treasure box with images of parables on the inside for children to color. Once it’s colored, students can fold it into a box. The box is full color (wood grain) on the outside and black and white on the inside for kids to color.
Each lesson has 4 Treasure cards children can fill out and add to their box:
- Memory Verse Cards – children can decorate with stickers or draw pictures on to remind them of the lesson
- Lesson-Specific Treasure Cards – children may attach a treasure to remind them of the parable in the lesson (a seed, a pearl, etc.)
- Reflection Cards – children think about an application question and write a response.
- Additional Treasure Cards – children can look around their everyday surroundings and collect things from nature, wisdom from parents, or Bible verses and share what they’ve found on the card.
To assist leaders in discussing the Gospel at a deeper level with the children they interact with, the booklet Helping Children to Understand the Gospel is included in the kit.What hasn’t changed?
The rich five-lesson content remains the same as well as the intentional use of Bible verses and passages.
After an unusually long, cold winter, it’s finally summer! But churches are already thinking ahead to the fall. What will they teach the students next year; the current curriculum or something new? There are many varied reasons for choosing one curricula over another. Here are 12 reasons why you should consider teaching the Truth78 curricula:
- Vision-Oriented—our philosophy, methodology, scope and sequence, and lesson content all are aiming toward one main goal: That our students may know, honor, and treasure God, setting their hope in Christ alone, so that they will live as faithful disciples for the glory of God. (Download our Truth78 Viewbook for a more thorough introduction to our vision, mission, and curricula.)
- Whole Gospel-focused—Our hope and prayer is that every student will come to salvation in Christ and live as faithful disciples. Therefore, we believe that great care must be exercised in communicating the Gospel. Our students need the whole, rich foundation of the Gospel taught to them. A foundation which honors and exalts Christ by inspiring love, trust, obedience, and worship of Him as the essence, means, and goal of the Gospel is explained precept-by-percept. While each curriculum, as a whole, presents the Gospel message, not every lesson presents an “explicit” Gospel summary.
- Written by teachers, within the classroom setting—Sometimes a lesson looks great on paper but teaching it in a classroom with a live audience of students can be a very different experience. Our lessons have been developed and taught in the classroom and have been reviewed by other teachers and small group leaders before being published.
- Encourages both teacher and students to study the Bible—We place a very high premium on biblical literacy. Therefore, as soon as children are able to read, we believe they are ready to interact with the text of Scripture, using their own Bibles. Our curriculum helps teachers guide students in developing essential Bible study skills.
- Nourishes teachers—It’s hard to teach something that hasn’t enriched you first. Though our lessons are written for children and youth at age-appropriate levels, they are meaty with theological truths. This isn’t because we are especially clever, but because the lessons focus on revealing and explaining the Word of God. The Word provides teachers with spiritual food as they meditate on the lesson throughout the week while preparing to teach.
- Trains children and youth to think—It’s one thing to give children information to recall. It’s entirely different to engage their minds in critical thinking – the kind of thinking that prepares them to truly understand, embrace, live out, and defend the Christian faith for a life-time. Our interactive teaching style (asking questions, posing scenarios, etc.) helps train students to think critically and biblically.
- Aims for heart transformation—The mind is a conduit to the heart from which springs genuine faith and love for Christ. Too often children’s and youth curricula fail to engage the heart in any deep and meaningful way. Our curriculum has been designed to spend a significant time engaging students’ hearts in responding to God’s truth. While it is only by God’s sovereign grace that true heart transformation happens, we give teachers a variety of suggestions for leading discussions that prod students to sincerely and personally respond to God’s truth.
- Serious joy—We would never use the word “fun” as one of our curriculum distinctives. However, we offer something better than fun: Serious joy. We study the most important truths in the universe: The truth of God in the Word of God. God is holy and so is His Word. That’s why there is a certain demeanor and serious tone to our lesson content and format. But that doesn’t mean that the lessons are dry and boring. Our God is NOT boring. Therefore, when appropriate, there is plenty of room for creativity, laughter, excitement, colorful imagery, loudness, etc. But it’s all meant to point toward the majestic and awesome glory of God, where we find true, lasting, all-satisfying joy.
- Great customer service—Switching to a new curriculum can be a daunting task. There are a variety of issues to address and “one size fits all” in children’s and youth ministry. Truth78 is blessed to have an experienced team of people who have decades of experience in classroom ministry with our curriculum. They love serving people and finding answers to your questions and solutions to your concerns.
- Keeping the main thing the main thing—Unfortunately, for an increasing number of children, the Sunday school hour is one of the few times during their week that they receive formal Bible instruction. We want to use that limited time in order to focus on the main thing: Making them wise for salvation in Christ by acquainting them with the Scriptures. Therefore, our curriculum maximizes spiritual instruction and makes other activities secondary.
- Theological balance over the course of the entire scope and sequence—If our students are to be taught the whole counsel of God, they need to see and understand the Bible through a variety of disciplines: Bible survey, biblical theology, systematic theology, moral and ethical teaching, and an explicit Gospel presentation. Our scope and sequence has been carefully designed to introduce these disciplines in balance, not neglecting one for another. All serve in helping children and youth develop a robust faith.
- Gives parents “meat” to feed their children—Each lesson is accompanied by a GIFT (Growing In Faith Together) page. Not only do they give parents a summary of the lesson, they also give various ideas for follow-up discussion, helping parents discern their child’s spiritual condition and encourage faith in Christ and loving obedience to His Word.
How would you describe your church’s nursery environment? What are the expectations when parents hand over their child to the nursery workers? How do nursery staff perceive their role? How does your pastor and leadership view the nursery? These are all good questions to ponder.
For too long nurseries have been part of church life because somebody has to take care of the infants and toddlers while their parents participate in worship services and Sunday school classes. But we at Truth78 believe the church nursery can and should be an exciting and vital ministry in the church as it serves to nurture the faith of the next generation. We believe that the nursery should be a place where babies and toddlers are:
- welcomed and cared for with the love of Jesus
- prayed for
- taught about God through the repetition of simple truth statements
- introduced to foundational Bible stories
- encouraged with Scripture memory verses
- surrounded by sights, sounds, and experiences that provide spiritual nourishment for young souls
- tenderly acquainted with the Gospel
This puts nursery ministry in a whole new light. Nursery is not just a ministry to parents as we care for their children. It is more than changing diapers, feeding a baby his bottle, and calming a crying child. It is kingdom ministry to the “least of these.” Consider these words from John Piper,
Jesus took the child-belittling culture of his day which defined “greatness” to exclude “receiving children” and he turned it upside down. He said: “Receiving children in my name is the world’s least, and the world’s least is my great.” So wherever the Spirit of Christ pervades, the people who receive children will no longer be the “least.” They will be “great.”
Really? Why? Because to receive a child in Jesus’ name (i.e., out of love, in his strength, and for his glory) is to receive Jesus, and to receive Jesus is to receive God the Father. Which means that the nursery may be more full of God than any other room in the church.
At Truth78 we earnestly desire to highlight the significance of the church nursery by providing resources and training that aids churches–ministry leaders, volunteers, and parents–in creating a Gospel-loving, Bible-saturated, Spirit-dependent atmosphere for babies and toddlers. When this type of vision and philosophy is established and communicated, a nursery worker will no longer see his or her involvement merely as babysitting. Rather, participation in nursery ministry will be understood as laying the foundations for the faith of the next generation. An hour strategically used for kingdom purposes can, by God’s sovereign grace, reap a harvest of souls.
How to nourish the spiritual lives of babies and toddlers
We believe there are at least three important elements of the atmosphere of the nursery. Each is strategically incorporated and further explained in our nursery curriculum: A Sure Foundation: A Philosophy and Curriculum for Ministry to Infants and Toddlers.
1. Create an atmosphere that is God-oriented in its character. A nursery ministry focused on spiritual work will have an atmosphere permeated with the fragrance of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). It should be obvious to anyone entering the nursery that it is a place of loving kindness and soul nurturing. Here are several practical ways to implement this:
- Strive for calmness and joy in the nursery. Be the “fragrance of Christ.” Encourage volunteers to exhibit this demeanor in their interactions with the children and each other. To facilitate this, consider playing hymns and worship music in the background. Join in the singing at times. These can be upbeat, happy songs or soothing, gentle music. Posters of worship songs and hymns can be posted on the nursery walls to facilitate singing.
- Decorate the room with pictures or posters that reflect biblical truth. These can then be used to point children God-ward. For example, it is more strategic to have a picture of Jesus with the little children than a picture of a cartoon character. A volunteer can use the former to tell children, “Jesus loves the little children.” A poster of a kitten is cute, but a poster of a kitten with the saying, “God made kittens” is better.
- Be intentional in using speech and singing as a means of conveying biblical truth. Although a baby may not understand the words “Jesus loves you” or “God made these little toes,” we should not underestimate what God might be pleased to do through the telling of these simple truths. Prayers and words of blessing can be spoken over a child as he is placed in a crib or as he leaves the nursery.
2. Create an atmosphere of humble dependence. Psalm 121:1 says that “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” All our efforts will be fruitless unless the Lord is at work in the hearts of the little ones in the nursery. We are called to be faithful in imparting truth and sharing our faith, but God is the one who causes our efforts to bear fruit. It is good for nursery workers to remember that our attitude should be one of humble dependence on God. One way to exhibit this is to begin the nursery time in prayer and incorporate it throughout various times of the nursery session.
3. Create an atmosphere characterized by godly people. Although the words spoken may not be understood by a baby, the tone or the emotion of the adult caring for him can be sensed. In other words, the godly spirit of a nursery worker can minister to a baby in his care. Therefore it is strategic to nurture the souls of the nursery workers so they can nurture the souls of the babies in the nursery. This means that hiring unbelievers to work in the nursery will defeat your goal of having a spiritual atmosphere in the nursery. Carefully screen, train, equip, and encourage nursery volunteers.
Truth78’s nursery and toddler curriculum, A Sure Foundation, provides a thorough explanation of our vision, philosophy, and methodology as well as numerous visuals, Bible stories, memory verses, and other helpful resources. We encourage you to carefully read all of the introductory material in order to understand how the curriculum is structured and how it can be used in your particular setting. We also highly recommend the following seminar and accompanying handout. They offer inspiration and practical tips for using the material:
Nursery and Toddler Ministry (audio)
Our new vision statement communicates our heartfelt desire for the next generations and begins with three distinct goals: that the next generations know, honor, and treasure God. Why these three? Because we believe each communicates essential, foundational realities necessary for the Christian life.
In its totality, knowing God encompasses both an intellectual comprehension and a covenantal relationship. Both are crucial. Consider these words from John Piper in an Ask Pastor John segment,
If you start at the beginning, the first and great commandment says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). So I would think, since that is the first commandment, that is the first challenge in every generation. Does the church and does the world love God with all their heart and all their soul and all their mind and all their strength? …if we don’t know God, we can’t love God.
Our worship to glorify God must be based on what we have seen of God, what we know of God, what he has revealed of Himself. If we are just worshiping a haze, God is not getting a lot of glory from the warm feelings that we are having in our hearts because of the ignorance of not being in our heads, because of the haze over our lives.
So today I think the biggest challenge is: Do people know God? Do people have a knowledge that is trustworthy? Therefore a huge issue is: What is the role of the Bible in the church today and is it trustworthy and are people basing their lives on it…? Are they getting the whole counsel of God so that they can love the whole God?
When we say our desire for the next generations is to know God, we want them to come to genuinely know the truth of the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—by becoming acquainted with His divine character, glorious deeds, redemptive work, and steadfast promises as revealed in His inerrant Word, the Bible. Our prayer is that, by God’s sovereign grace, this knowledge will bring them into a covenantal relationship with God.
Honor is a word that has become almost obsolete in contemporary culture. So few things are honored and so few things are worthy of honor. Tragically the church has not been immune to this trend. The late Jerry Bridges gives us a wonderful reminder we need to heed,
It is impossible to be devoted to God if one’s heart is not filled with the fear of God. It is the profound sense of veneration and honor, reverence and awe that draws forth from our hearts the worship and adoration that characterizes true devotion to God.
In our day we must begin to recover a sense of awe and profound reverence for God. We must begin to view Him once again in the infinite majesty that alone belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Ruler of the entire universe (The Practice of Godliness—Godliness Has Value for All Things, 21).
When we state our desire for the next generations to honor God, we want them to honor and revere God in a way befitting His incomparable greatness and worth.
As the most important command of Scripture points out, love for God is to be ultimate, and it should involve every aspect of our being—every thought, emotion, attitude, word, and action. God is worthy of our greatest affections. One way in which to communicate this type of love, especially to children, is to speak in terms of treasuring God most. As Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Therefore, we could define loving God as knowing, feeling, and treating God as your greatest treasure. Treasuring God in this manner is the only thing that will ultimately satisfy the soul. It is within this context that we realize that the command to love God most is not only our greatest duty, but also our greatest delight.
So when we state our desire for the next generations to treasure God, we want them to treat God with undivided love and devotion, experiencing Him as their all-satisfying joy.
At Truth78, our hope and prayer is that the next generations know, honor, and treasure God. But this statement would not be realized if not for the very next words: setting their hope in Christ alone. Our children and students must set their full confidence and hope in Christ. It is only through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection that Jesus redeems sinners so that we might truly know, honor, and treasure God for all eternity.
Truth78 will host a special late night event with John Piper at TGC’s 2018 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, IN, June 15.
Prior to his plenary message on Saturday morning, John Piper will join us for Late Night with Truth78 on Friday, June 15 at 9:15 pm, where he and David Michael will talk about the urgency and joy in proclaiming the whole counsel of God to the next generations.
Truth78 will also be exhibiting throughout the conference, June 14-16. Everyone who comes by our booth and signs up for the Truth78 e-newsletter will receive a free copy of our interactive family devotional Glorious God, Glorious Gospel. We’ll have new resources to view at booth 160, just before the bookstore area, and several products available for sale in the conference bookstore. We’ll also offer a special conference discount available on all online orders from June 14 through June 24.
If you’re planning to attend the conference, be sure to add our Late Night event to your schedule and find a time to come by the booth and say hello. We’d love to visit with you and encourage you in your ministry to the next generation.
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. http://blog.childrendesiringgod.org/inviting-children-to-experience-worship-of-god/
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, (LINK to Jill’s babies in church article) and it is a worthy goal to learn 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.
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.”
I remember when every night was a struggle to get our daughter to bed. It was as if nighttime brought to her mind every possible catastrophic scenario. She was terrified! As parents, we were tempted to simply address her fears with simple, rational explanations: “See, there are no monsters under your bed.” “The dark can’t hurt you.” Etc.
Sometimes these explanations can be helpful, but they can never give our children unshakeable peace and assurance in the myriad of fearful situations they will experience both now and in the future. That’s why I am so excited about When I am Afraid, a new children’s resource from Truth78. A full-color picture book, When I am Afraid addresses one of the most common experiences of children: FEAR. It provides parents with a tool for helping their children look to God’s all-powerful Word to conquer fear and worry.
Through carefully selected verses, children are reminded of the character of God and His wonderful provision and protection of His people.
The book’s “Word to Parents” and “How to Use this Book” sections provide a strong foundation and context for going beyond simply reading the book to their child(ren). It encourages parents to use the illustrations and verses to engage their child’s heart in further spiritual discussion, points them to the Gospel, and shows them their need for responding in faith.
A mother wrote to share this story of how the message helped her guide her son:
My three children take turns sleeping with our toddler, so every third night our middle son must sleep alone, which creates overwhelming fear and sadness for him.
Last night was a night that son was asked to sleep alone. He broke down again. This time, we all read your book on fear. I think we could all feel our confidence in God build as we read through it together. His Word is so powerful. We all laid hands on my son who had been so frightened and each of us prayed for him and he went to bed – without tears! It was a real victory!
This book is fantastic and not too young for anyone. I think I’ll try and use it when we teach the lesson on “Jesus Calms Fearful Sinners” in the kindergarten class…just perfect!
You can read more about the book, including sample pages, here.
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.
Thirty-some years ago I was a frustrated Sunday school teacher. Why? Because the majestic scope and depth of the glories of God that was preached so faithfully from the pulpit week after week was being dangerously minimized and skewed in the Sunday school classroom. From the pulpit we heard great truths proclaimed such as,
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25)
Yet the main point of a lesson on the Exodus I was to teach the children was, “God needed Moses to help Him deliver the Israelites from Egypt.” The pulpit and the classroom were on two different trajectories. One proclaimed a biblical vision of an almighty, self-sufficient God; and the other, a man-construed weak and needy “God.” I longed to teach the children about the all-satisfying delight of knowing, trusting, and treasuring an almighty, self-sufficient God!
Watch as John Piper explains the importance of the pulpit and children’s and youth ministry being in harmony with one another and how Truth78 materials served to bridge the gap.
My birding binoculars recently went haywire. When you look through both eyepieces you get a distorted double image. Yet if you look through each individual eyepiece using one eye at a time, you get a clear image. The problem is that this image is very limited in its scope. Somehow the two eyepieces are out of sync with one another, greatly reducing the usefulness of the binoculars.
This illustration can help in describing the importance of the church and home working “in sync”—in partnership—with one another in nurturing the faith of the next generations. Though parents are given the primary responsibility to raise children in the faith, by design and opportunity (Deuteronomy 6:4-7), God has also designed that this nurturing take place in partnership with the church (Matthew 28:18-20 and Ephesians 4:11-13). This partnership affirms the role and responsibility of church leadership to provide encouragement and training for parents as well as provide formal instruction for children and youth. Individually, both church and home, have an important role to play in our children’s discipleship. But the scope and impact will be far greater when church and home are intentionally working together to nurture the faith of our children.
The first step in fostering this biblical parent-church partnership is to explore, clarify, and communicate what this partnership consists of and how it will be fleshed out, addressing questions like:
- What is the church’s vision for children’s and youth ministry?
- What will be the church’s responsibility in pursuing this vision?
- What specific biblical instruction will be offered to children and youth?
- How will the church equip parents?
- What is expected of parents?
Here are two printable documents that outline some first steps and practical suggestions for fostering a healthy partnership between church and home.
Parents: Partnering with Your Church
Church: Partnering with Parents
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
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
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.
- Glorious God, Glorious Gospel
- The Making HIM Known Series
- The Righteous Shall Live By Faith
- Lord Teach Us to Pray
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.