Tags: Bible teachers, children's Bible lessons, children's Bible studies, children's church, emotions, follow your heart, Jeremiah 17, Proverbs 28, Sunday School teachers, trust your heart
Last time, I discussed the problem of teaching Bible stories to children as though they are fables. Now we will see another concern that surfaces in many children’s Bible lessons: the emphasis on feelings.
Bible lessons are not therapy sessions. They are not really supposed to be opportunities for children to explore their emotions or feelings. Often, a children’s Bible lesson will have an “application” section so that the teacher can ask the child, “How do you think Jonah felt when was about to be thrown overboard? How do you think Jesus feels when you disobey?” And so forth.
Our feelings are not trustworthy, and it is better that our children understand, at a very early age, that the Bible is a book of absolute truth, not a sounding board for our opinions or feelings.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
A child should not be encouraged to see himself as the hero in every Bible story. Quite the opposite: he should be encouraged to see himself as the SINNER in every Bible story. Our feelings (just like our wills and our intellects) are fallen. That are bent toward self-glorification, self-justification, and self-interpretation. The hard thing about teaching children is not building up their self-esteem. The hard thing is replacing it (not tearing it down) with esteem for God. Our job as parents, or as children’s Bible teachers, is to utterly convince them that He is absolutely supreme. This task will face its toughest obstacle not in convincing them that He is supreme over the weather, the government, their earthly heroes, us, or even death and the grave. It will be convincing them that He is absolutely supreme over THEM.
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
“Just trust your heart,” says Walt Disney. “Follow your heart,” says Cinderella or the little mermaid. “Listen to your heart,” says Oprah. NO! Trusting and following your heart will make you a fool and may cut you off from God’s help. In grace, you will fail quickly, but in His judgment He may let you have your own way, and you do not want to have your own way over God’s way. Walk wisely and you will figure life out on your own? No. Walk wisely and you will learn from experience? No. Walk wisely and you will be what? DELIVERED, which means rescued by someone more loving, more powerful, more wise, more SUPREME than you.
Let’s teach children Bible truth, not feelings. Then their God-given feelings will focus on Him – where they belong.
Tags: Bible teachers, Biblical Parenting, children's church, children's ministry, Christian parenting, commentary on Matthew, Jonah, Jonah and the whale, Matthew 12, Sunday School lessons on Matthew
The are various ways to teach Bible stories (which are true, factual, historical events) to children, and various techniques that can be used. This is not going to be a lesson about how to use sock puppets, or how to talk in a funny voice to keep kids’ attention, or how to string out a story over several weeks with carefully designed “cliffhangers,” so they will want to come back each week to find out what happens next. There are people who are far better at those things than I am.
No, this is about the actual teaching of Scripture. Teaching means that you are focusing on what they are actually learning, not just making sure they are having fun or being entertained. Nor am I talking about showing off Bible knowledge, or giving out prizes for participation or accomplishment. I’m talking about actually finding out what God wants us to know about a particular Bible story: Why did God put this in there and command us to read and study it?
Therefore, the first thing to keep in mind when teaching Bible stories to children is: Don’t teach fables. Bible stories are not fables. They are not fairy tales, and their purpose is not always to teach a “moral lesson,” although we usually can glean moral lessons from them.
The problem with avoiding the fable-teaching method in children’s Bible studies is that you will be hard-pressed to find a children’s curriculum or lesson book that DOESN’T use this method. Take the story of Jonah for example.
“Jonah was told by God to go where? Nineveh. But he didn’t want to go there, did he? No. Where did he go instead? To Joppa and then to Tarshish. And when he boarded the ship for Tarshish, what happened? A big storm that resulted in him getting thrown overboard. What do we learn from this? That if you disobey God something bad will happen to you.”
That’s true – as far as it goes – but remember, there are people disobeying God all over the place like crazy, and they seem to be doing fine. Several of them hold the highest government offices in our land! The story of Jonah is not like the boy who cried wolf – he did something bad so he ended up facing the consequences.
Try this instead: “What happened to Jonah when he was thrown overboard? Did he drown? No, God sent a big fish to swallow him up. That’s terrifying, but it turned out to be better than drowning, because he lived in the fish’s belly for how long? Three days… hey, wait a minute… hmmm, that reminds me of someone else who was supposed to be dead, and went down somewhere for three days.”
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
It turns out that the Holy Spirit, when describing what happened to Jonah, was not really primarily teaching a lesson about the consequences of disobeying God, or even about how God can comfort you when you are scared and alone, or even about how God controls His creation (weather and animals). No, what He was primarily teaching is that we all have disobeyed God, and we deserve to be thrown into the sea to die, and we have absolutely no ability to save ourselves, but God can save us, because He Himself went down into the grave (the “belly of the earth”) and rose again in His Own power. Furthermore, just like Jonah’s testimony of coming back from the dead was the sign that supported his preaching, for us, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is our “proof” that everything that Jesus said about our sin and His salvation is true.
We don’t want our kids to think of a cartoon man and a cartoon whale, and definitely not a cucumber swimming around with a talking tomato.
We want them to think of a real man and a real fish that God used to get people ready to recognize Jesus – the Christ – Who would one day fulfill what Jonah and the whale typified: sin, death, burial, resurrection, and Gospel preaching!
Tags: 2 Timothy 3, Biblical children, Biblical Parenting, Biblical parents, children's church, children's ministry, Christian parenting, Christian parents, The Bible
There is a whole industry out their geared toward the production of material for sale to churches, under the heading, “children’s ministry.” From coloring books, to puzzles, to visual aids, to movies, to action figures, to entire programs with point systems set up to award patches, trophies, candy, and prizes for attaining participation and memorization goals, there is no shortage of items available for those who would like organize, institute, or carry on with, a “children’s program” at his or her church.
The Holy Spirit, however, reminds us that the most important “material” needed in the evangelism, instruction, and training of children is found between the covers of God’s Holy Word: the Bible.
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
II Timothy 3:15
If you are a Christian parent, then I suppose there may be some value in having a shelf filled with work books, color-in-the-lines representations of Noah’s Ark, and attendance awards, or a wall covered with certificates of merit for knowing all the hand motions to “I’m in the Lord’s Army, yes sir!” but do not neglect the most valuable teaching and learning tool ever invented for the edification of little (or future) disciples of Jesus: the Scriptures.
Tags: children's church, commentary on Psalms, corporate worship, family worship, integrated family worship, praise and worship, praise the Lord, Psalm 148, Sunday School lessons on Psalms
Psalm 148 is a psalm which commands us to praise the Lord.
Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
In fact, it commands all of creation, the whole universe, to praise the Lord.
Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.
Kings and rulers, “ordinary people,” men and women, the young and old, all types of people are commanded to praise the Lord. This makes sense, but it is not limited to those with any sort of advanced understanding of how they are to worship. No one is exempt, regardless of maturity level or even sentient intelligence, for that matter. We would do well to remember this in our corporate worship services. There can be a temptation for those of a more advanced understanding to seek to eliminate the distraction of those who might not worship with the same mindset, decorum, or sophistication. However, it is clear that the Bible would not have us give in to this temptation. If even the seas, mountains, birds, and cattle can praise the Lord, how much more should we encourage our children to worship alongside us!
Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:
Why should the Lord be praised by so inclusive a throng? Because:
Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.
Tags: children's church, Christian parenting, church youth groups, teen years, teenage years, teenagers in the Bible, teens, Titus 2, youth ministry
The world has developed a wonderful category for young people – wonderful, that is, from the world’s point of view. This category is called: The Teenage Years. Teenagers – especially in America – are encouraged to play around with all the privileges of adulthood while being exempt from all but a very few of the responsibilities.
Since this is a worldly concept, we would expect to see something different in the Church, wouldn’t we? Here is how the Bible says that adults should minister to young people in church:
That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
The world says that teenaged children must be entertained or they will find church boring and irrelevant. God says that they are to be taught and exhorted from His Word, and that the power of the Gospel (not pizza parties, rock concerts, or games) will transform them. Children are not to be separated out of a church fellowship. They are to be kept among the aged men and women of the church, so that they can be prepared for mature Christian adulthood, not a worldly prolonged-adolescence.
Tags: babies in church, children in church, children's church, God's glory, Joel 2, senior citizens, solemn assembly, teenagers in church, the prophet Joel
The prophet Joel had a message from God, and it was not restricted to certain age groups. In Joel 2:15-16, God convened the most serious kind of church service there was, and nobody was to be left out. From senior citizens, to children, to little babies, to young adults of marrying age, He wanted everybody present.
Joel didn’t even kowtow to the religious leaders of his day.
Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
When God’s people go astray, they need to be cleansed before they are restored. This is because God loves His people, but His chief concern is for His Own name. God alone is worthy of praise and worship, and for Him to seek glory for any other – even His beloved creations – would be a form of idolatry.
Let us pray that we never send a message to our children, or to any group of our church family, that our comfort, our convenience, or our own concerns are to be sought above God’s Own glory.
Tags: children in the Bible, children's church, Christian parenting, Ephesians 1, Ephesians 6, Galatians 3, Joel 2, needlepoint, parenting principles, teenagers
Rollerblading for senior citizens? “Teen” night on the Weather Channel? A bouncy water slide for widows’ ministry? Needlepoint-and-prayer meeting for toddlers? Let’s face it, some activities are not for everyone. Some activities are limited by interest, physical ability, and even age. But is the main reason for church attendance – the hearing of the preaching of the Word of God – one of those activities?
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:… Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Ephesians 1:1; 6:1
Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
It sure looks like, from the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, that all different types of people, children of all ages, and adults, all met together and heard the preaching of the Word of God together as a matter of regular practice. The wisdom of man says that a person’s need is to be rescued from boredom, for which specialized entertainment is the solution. The wisdom of God says that a person’s need is to be rescued from sin, for which instruction, training, and exhortation from the Word of God is the solution.