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I Don’t “Feel” Like God Meant What He Said

I Don’t “Feel” Like God Meant What He Said

Feelings.  We live in a time where feelings dictate behavior.  And it has become acceptable in our culture.    Many of our youth does not seem to feel like God meant what He said.  Dress modestly?  I don’t feel like it and God would want me to be happy.  Sexual preferences and gender identity? I feel this way and God would want me to be happy.  Worship the way God says?  But I feel like God would like it this way better because I can get into the service better this other way.  Love your neighbor?  But he has stolen from me twice and lied about it.  Surely God doesn’t mean for me to love a sinner like that?  Regardless of what scripture may say, many of our youth have developed an attitude that our feelings outweigh obedience.

Yes, our awesome God wants His children to find happiness, but not happiness of the world.  Not a self-centered happiness, but one with a servant’s heart.  Here are just a few verses of hundreds that tell us what our God expects, and selfishness is absent.

  • “The greatest among you will be your servant.”  (Matthew 23:11)
  • “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
  • In 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel tells Saul that it is better to obey than to sacrifice.  Our God wants obedience, yet our youth are more focused on how they believe God wants them to feel. They’ve made this life all about them, not God.  So how do we turn this backwards way of thinking around?

We have a problem, now how do we fix it?  It will not happen overnight, but we can teach the next generation, our children.  It’s important that we teach them how much God loves them and wants a good life for them, but this good life comes with obedience.  We should reinforce often God’s desire for obedience and share the many bible stories that teach this.  They are everywhere!  Saul grew impatient waiting for Samuel so he offered the sacrifice before going into battle and this act of disobedience cost Saul his kingdom.  Yes, we could easily see how Saul justified his decision just like we often do with our own choices today, but God expects obedience.  Then there is Daniel.  He chose to obey, praying to God in spite of an earthly law and God closed the mouths of the lions keeping Daniel safe.  We can show this point in just about every biblical account beginning with Adam and Eve.  Take the time to do this and explain to our children that it is clearly not about what we feel, but what God asks of us.

Need ideas?  Take a look at my curriculum (FREE) and use as is or just for ideas.  (More to come.) The goal is to reach our children with the God’s Truth, teaching our kids to KNOW God, LOVE God, and SHARE God with others.

Reversing the Trend of Bible Class Involvement

Reversing the Trend of Bible Class Involvement

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.

Priorities

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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Moving Up to Middle School

Moving Up to Middle School

What you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing

“In essence,” the researcher noted, “what you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing. Of course, there are many individuals who go through life-changing experiences in which their beliefs are altered, or instances in which a concentrated body of religious teaching changes one or more core beliefs. However, most people’s minds are made up and they believe they know what they need to know spiritually by age 13. Their focus in absorbing religious teaching after that age is to gain reassurance and confirmation of their existing beliefs rather than to glean new insights that will redefine their foundations.”  (Barna Group)

Are they ready to move on?

I work with elementary students and LOVE it!  These are the years when they are still cute, inquisitive, think you are super cool and are still acting like themselves.  Typically, they haven’t reached the stage where they have to act a certain way or do certain things to fit in and be cool.  Seeing my fifth graders leave my children’s ministry program to move up to the middle school is bittersweet.  Are they ready?  Did I positively impact their lives with Christ?

Wait just a minute!  I have to remind myself that God is working through me to reach His children.  Of course they are ready!  God is with them and will continue to be with them.  They will need encouraging Christian teachers and role models to surround them helping them mature in their spiritual walk, but God’s got this.  I’d encourage each of you to find reassurance in this too.  Of course, we will continue to pray for “our” kids, but we can find peace in the knowledge that we have been God’s ambassadors, water our little seeds, but God is the one who will help them grow.

Send them forward

We love to send our kids off with a gift to help them remember who their Savior is and to be obedient to Him.  A very simple idea is a rubber wristband with an inspirational word or verse.  Kids love these so they will actually wear them!  I got some from Amazon.com: “Walking With Jesus” Bracelet (1 DOZEN) – BULK  There are tons of options.  I liked the reminder that Jesus is with them every day, at every step. (Oriental Trading has them too!)  Send them away with a short devotional explaining what it means to “walk with Jesus” so they will remember this each time they see their bracelet.  Plus, it’s a good way to get other kids to ask them about their bracelets giving the perfect opportunity for kids to share their faith with their peers.

Other suggestions are bible journals or teen devotional books.  Encourage them to keep God in their daily lives.  Take God to school with them.  Take God to athletics.  Take God everywhere!  As teachers we do our very best to help our kids make wise choices and remember their Heavenly Father!  I’d love to hear some of you ideas!  I often find my readers have some of the best ideas!!  Post them in the comments.

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Does It Matter If Kids Know Bible Studies?

Does It Matter If Kids Know Bible Studies?

Does bible knowledge really matter

A relationship with Christ or Bible Knowledge?

“The facts don’t matter as long as children have a relationship with Christ.”

 

Those are the words I recently heard from a well meaning children’s bible school teacher.  Those words kept repeating in my head.  Something just did not sound right to me.  I supposed this could be true, but I was still bothered.  You see, another teacher was struggling with one child coming to church week after week for years, but never recollecting what had been taught.  In seeking advice, it was suggested that the facts were not important; it was only their relationship with Christ.  What kind of relationship can you really have with someone you don’t know though?  Sure.  I can say, “I love Jesus” and “God forgives me,” but if I don’t know God, I don’t really know what these things even mean.  How can I love Jesus if I don’t know Him?  And how can I know Him if I don’t learn about Him?   How can I understand forgiveness if I never get a picture of what forgiveness is?

Take a moment and think about the people you would say you have a relationship with.  Who are they?  Let’s take a few that most of us would agree we have a relationship with:  Postman, Bank Teller, Pastor, Best Friend, Spouse, Parents and our children. Now let’s look a little deeper into these relationships.  I wave to my Postman and occasionally say “hello” when he brings a package I have to sign for.  I know my bank teller a little better.  She lives on my street so I chat with her a little about the neighborhood and her kids when I stop in.  Then there is my Pastor.  I would say I am closer to the Pastor than the other two I mentioned.  I see him every week and because we serve on a few committee’s together, I know a little more about him; but I don’t ever sit down to a dinner with him or discuss his personal life much.  A best friend and a spouse… not these people know everything about me and I know all about them.  I know when they are happy, hurting, sad or mad.  We have close relationships.  My parents and my children don’t know near as much about me, but they know a lot.  I see them and talk to them all of the time.  When something good happens in my life, I want to share it with them.

These are the relationships I have with those around me.  Which kind of relationship do you want your kids to have with Christ?  Would you be content with them having a relationship similar to the one I have with my Postman or Bank Teller?  I don’t see them or talk to them often.  I know very little about them if anything at all.  It’s a relationship, so surely it is good enough.  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  We want our children to have a deep, meaningful relationship with God.  This means they need to know who God is first to be able to love Him with all of their heart, mind and soul.  Knowing God helps us understand how much our God loves us, what He sacrificed for us and how He continues to work in our lives every day.

God carefully decided what would go into His word, His message for us.  From the Old Testament to the New Testament, it is through His word that we know Him.  The more we study His word, the closer we get to God; the more connected with our to Him.  Our children do not need to know every bible fact nor do they need to be prepared for a bible fact test.  Our kids should be able to tell us a basic overview of what is being taught and how they see God in the story.  Was He kind?  Was He angry?  Was He forgiving?  Was He Jealous?  Was He Right or Wrong?  How did they see God?  This helps kids form a picture of who their God really is and this is the God they can have a real meaningful relationship with.    So do facts matter over a relationship with Christ?  Absolutely not!  But can you have a true meaningful relationship without the facts, without knowledge of who someone (in this case, God) is?  It’s not likely.  So continue to share God’s story with children and work to help them see God.

 

Beat the Bible Reading Blues & Build Bible Readers for Life

Beat the Bible Reading Blues & Build Bible Readers for Life

I was recently reading a study conducted by the Barna Group and was surprised to read that Americans desire more bible reading.  Fifty-eight percent of adults wish they read the bible more often, but most say their bible reading is about the same as it was a year ago.  (Barna Trends 2018)  This is not a big surprise though.  Think about it.  How often are goals set at the first of each new year and when you come to the next year you find yourself writing the same goals all over again because you did not accomplish them?

We may not be able to change this overnight, but I believe we can begin working on this very thing with our children now.  If we begin with kids, the idea is they will grow up continuing to read their bibles.  But how do we get kids to read this old, outdated, archaic, boring book?  Wait just a minute!  That’s what kids think of the bible but it’s all wrong!  For starters, it may help to read a bible version that reads more like a story, bringing the bible to life in a kids mind.  When it reads like a story, it begins to make sense and they enjoy it.  Have you ever read the story of Abimelech in Judges 9?  I just taught on this and had so much fun with it because the whole story is dripping with sarcasm.  When kids see and hear the sarcasm, the people become real to them and the story itself is humorous and interesting. Plus, they read about people hiding out in towers but the enemy burns it down and they die.  It’s like movies they see and enjoy.  If we can help kids see that the bible is enjoyable like the movies they watch, wouldn’t it be awesome to see them desiring to read more scripture?

For younger kids, you may try this to get them interested:

For those leaving the elementary program and entering into middle school, this may be a great option:

Remember, the goal is to get kids picking up a bible to read and WANTING to read it because they enjoy it.  If they enjoy it, they are more likely to stick with it, remember it and share it with others!

 

Leave Boring at Home-Bring Your Passion

Leave Boring at Home-Bring Your Passion

The Incredibly Boring Bible Class (A short play) Class:     (Sits with all eyes on the teacher.) Teacher:  (Dry, boring tone.)  So (long pause)  today we will learn about, uh (another long pause)  Jesus turns water into wine. Class:     (Begins to look around the room and one messes with the kid next to him) Teacher:  Class.  Pay attention.  (Looks at paper like trying to find place.) (Some look up.) Teacher:  This was a miracle. Class:      (Again, looks around the room bored.)
Remember the scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day off?”  The scene with the blah teacher?  Have you ever sat through a class or training like this where the speaker was unbelievably boring?  A class where you wondered if the presenter even cared about the topic?  Our kids see right through us!  If we are not excited, passionate about sharing God’s word with them, they are not going to get excited either.  Why would they? We know that a child’s attention span is short and it will be even shorter if they are bored out of their minds.  Take a moment to reflect on what kind of teacher you are.  Be honest with yourself.  Do you have a passion for God’s word?  Does it bring a smile and excitement to your face when you talk about it?  Do you get energized when teaching children?  If you answered “no” to any of these, you may need to serve in another area.  Teaching children may not be your gift.  At the very least, you need to change your presentation. Now, if you truly have a passion for God’s word and a desire to teach His message to children, but it doesn’t show, there are things you can do right now to fix this.

  • Number 1 seems obvious, but is often overlooked.  Know the lesson and find the thrilling parts, the parts you now the kids will love.  For example, in the story of Adam and Eve, they are going to go crazy when you tell them they were naked in the garden or that a serpent talked to them.  In Jonah, they will think it is gross but interesting when you share how nasty and fishy it must have smelled in the belly of the fish.  You get the idea.  Find what is intriguing so you can engage the kids.
  • Smile when you talk!  If this doesn’t come naturally to you, practice in a mirror.  Practice while you drive.  Practice, practice, practice until it becomes natural.  “It seems that the simple act of a physical smile, authentic or not, tricks your brain into thinking you’re actually happy.” (Huff Post)  And we want all of our kids to be happy when learing about their amazing, powerful God.
  • Read with inflections and movement.  Raise and lower your voice.  Use your eyebrows.  Use your hands.  If this is not natural to you, it will feel weird at first, but keep exagerating your tones and motions and eventually, it will be.  In theater, students are taught to exaggerate their movement so people in the audience can tell what they are doing up on stage.  It’s the same idea.  We want kids to see and engage.
  • Engage the class.  As you are sharing God’s word, a story from scripture, ask questions.  Engage the hearts and minds of the class.  Getting them involved gets them excited.

More than anything else, as a children’s bible class teacher, you must have a passion for God’s word and sharing God’s word with children!  Passion brings energy and it is contagious.  What could be better than a class full of kids with a contagious passion for Christ?