Hello! Hola! Salut! Privet! Shalom! Ciao! God Dag!
Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? I took French in high school against my mother’s urging to learn Spanish. Living in Texas I sure wish I had listened to Mom, but I don’t know that it would have made much difference. I can’t speak but a few words and phrases in French. I’m not sure how beneficial it is to know how to formally introduce myself in French, especially if someone happened to respond; I’d have no idea what they were saying! So where am I going with this?
When learning a foreign language, the teacher always begins by teaching vocabulary… and lots of it. After months of vocabulary we start asking the teacher, “When are we going to learn to speak the language?” And the teacher kindly encourages patience and explains that we have to start with a bank of words first. Before we can do anything else, we must have a set of words to pull from. And so it continues, more vocabulary.
Building on the foundation.
After building a strong vocabulary, the teacher finally begins helping us form sentences. Even then, we continue adding to our vocabulary. And years later, we might speak fairly fluently with lots of practice, but even my friends in Advanced Spanish III still weren’t there yet. However, when immersed in the language and around natural speakers, we learn more quickly and even better. Studies show that after six months to a year of full immersion, we can speak a foreign language rather fluently! That’s a long cry from three years in school and still not really speaking it. It’s part time verses full time usage.
What on earth does this have to do with God’s word and our children’s ministry?
Well, how often these days do you see families coming to bible class about once or twice a month on average? This seems to be the norm now whereas when I was a kid, my parents had our family there every time the doors were open. It frustrated me as a kid, but my parents were immersing me in God’s word and the Christian culture. (It was more than just attending, of course. God was in our home.) Immersing ourselves in God’s word and with other Christians is like immersing oneself in another culture and language. By being around other Christians frequently and consistently we gain a better understanding of God’s plans for us, what He desires for us and what He expects of us. We will better understand who God is, our king.
First we teach children the bible stories to give them a base. This is their “vocabulary.” Then we teach them how it applies to their lives. This is the “sentence forming” phase. Then they are prepared to pull from all of this when they need it in life. They need to continue practicing it regularly so it stays fresh and strong, so they are “fluent” in the language of Christianity.
If we could help parents see the value of Christian immersion, maybe this would change attendance and involvement. If parents saw bible class as teaching their children valuable information preparing them for their future, would it matter more? I feel like parents often look at their children’s classes teaching irrelevant bible stories that don’t really help their kids. And most times if there’s a sporting event, it takes priority. On vacation? It turns into a vacation from church too, not just worship service, but the body of believers. Where are our priorities and would they be different if we realized the difference part time verses full time Christian immersion makes?
Into the hands of parents
How do we get this message to parents? Share it and consistently reinforce it! Thankfully, we have the internet! We have email and social media. How do we get the message out?
- Teach it incorporating pieces into every lesson so if someone misses one week, they hear it the next. And if they forget from week to week, they hear it again.
- Email it Send a weekly email to the parents in your congregation reviewing the lesson from the week, suggestions for reinforcing God with their kids at home during the week and then, this message! (A free MailChimp account is good for this.)
- Social Media Sharing Share tidbits throughout every week. Maybe a verse on a colorful background and a quick blurb to reinforce Christian immersion.
- Print it making a flyer or even a brochure about children’s and family ministry with a section dedicated to Christian immersion. Don’t be too wordy or it won’t get read by most.
- Signage is a great reminder. Put the idea of a Christian lifestyle at the forefront of people’s minds as they drive by your congregation, or the front yards of kids in your children’s program. Use a catchy phrase such as “What do they learn from the world?” or “Grow confident kids here.”
Now that you’ve spread the message and parents are getting the idea, what can you offer them for keeping God in the home daily? Here are just a few ideas:
- Discuss what kids learned in bible class and how they can apply it to their lives over Sunday lunch
- Pray together before school to start the day off with the right mindset and/or at the dinner table reminding kids that we are thankful.
- When disciplining kids, remind them that you love them AND God loves them. God wants them to have a good life and gave us what we need for this, but we need to obey. Share with them that when we disobey God like (give biblical example), we often run into trouble (like the biblical example). Help them see our loving God’s plan for them.
- Help kids see the good in others the way Jesus did instead of being judgmental or upset at those around them for petty thing.
- Memorize a bible verse together as a family. Choose one verse a week or even a month to focus on really putting it to memory, understanding it and seeing how it can be active in their lives. You might get a poster board and markers. Print the verse on it and let the family decorate it to hang in an area you all see daily. Make a family calendar and print a new verse for each month. Craft stores have plenty of options for this (or Amazon, my go to resource). Check out this wall calendar kit your family can have fun decorating. (This would make a great family event where you teach the families the importance of this time together with God’s word. Provide the calendars, stickers, printed verses (Large so they can cut and paste them big enough to see), markers and whatever else you can think of. Charge a small fee to cover your cost and I bet you still have a great turn out! I plan on trying this before the busy school year starts up in the fall.
It won’t happen overnight, but we can help parents see the importance of the church as a BIG part of their family life. It will take consistency and dedication! Please share some of your ideas. A group of ideas is always better than just mine!
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