This Kids Korner article is from GCI Generations Ministries National Coordinator Jeffrey Broadnax.
Most people are open to receiving words of appreciation, small gifts and other acts of kindness at any time of year. But during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, it seems that God uses such acts in a special way to open people’s hearts to Jesus and his love. So, let’s encourage our children and teens to take advantage of this opportunity by being intentional and personal in expressing appreciation to people in their congregation who they know (and even admire).
Proverbs 18:21 says that “life and death are in the power of the tongue” and that “those who love it will eat of its fruit.” The Message Bible offers this paraphrase: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Let’s encourage our kids to bless others during this time of year by choosing to speak heartfelt words of appreciation or by extending genuine compliments. Doing so will give other people hope, a reason to smile, and even strength to make it through a rough day. It’s amazing how much power a few words can have in blessing another person.
Two children in the congregation I pastor recently handmade gifts for me. As they handed them to me, they said, “It’s just because you are a great pastor.” Those gifts are now sitting in a prominent location on my desk at home—that’s how much what those kids did means to me. I still smile when I look at their gifts. But that’s not all. What they did makes me want to do something similar for others so they might share in the joy I am feeling. So, I texted a short message to a couple of friends to tell them that I love being their friend.
This month, during the season of Advent, why not ask the kids in your church to look around the congregation and make a small gift with a note to thank someone, such as:
the person who sets up the cookie table each week
the worship leaders who sing those cool songs
the person who runs the sound system
the people who stick around to clean the church
their friend who plays with them before and after church each week
Encourage the kids in their notes to go beyond a mere “thank you” to specify what they are thankful for. I bet those giving and receiving such notes will be chewing on that spiritual fruit for a few days as together they experience the gift of Jesus’ love and joy.
Advent and Christmas blessing to you all!
Here are two videos that would make good introductions to a conversation in your youth group on this topic:
Kid’s Korner this month is from GCI Equipper Editor Ted Johnston.
We’ll soon begin a new cycle in the Western Christian worship year, which begins with Advent Season (the period that includes the four Sundays prior to Christmas day). This year, December 2 is the first Sunday in Advent, so now is the time to prepare.
GCI strongly encourages its congregations to structure worship in accordance with the Christian worship calendar, following the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). To help congregations do that, we publish here in GCI Equipper RCL-synced sermons for each Sunday and a few other special worship days (such as those during Holy Week in the Spring).
Those of you who teach children’s church and teen church and classes can capitalize on this tie-in to the Christian worship calendar by syncing what you teach with the RCL. There are many ways to do that, and I encourage you to use your creativity. To help you, I’ve listed below some RCL-synced curricula available online. None of these are produced by GCI and thus we don’t necessarily endorse all their content, though we see these as some of the best resources available (if you know of others, let us know by posting the information in the comment box, below).
Resources for RCL-synced children and teen studies/classes:
Spark House curricula (various options for children and teen teaching curricula, including ones synced with the RCL)
Have you ever heard someone say, “I love my kids to death!”? That statement is not meant literally. Instead, it’s our way of expressing a whole-life focused love. It’s the kind of love we see in Jesus, who went to the cross for the sake of bringing us into the wholeness of his life. The way we approach discipleship with our kids should mirror that love. Let us all aim to love our kids to life!
Over the next few months, through a series of articles on worldview conversion and whole-life discipleship, the focus here in Equipper will be helping people of all ages develop a Christ-centered worldview. I urge all of you who are on the front lines of discipling kids to take to heart what is said in these articles so that you can, in turn, help our kids live their lives centered on Christ.
Children and teens especially run the risk of drowning as they swim in a “cultural soup” that runs increasingly counter to a Christ-centered worldview. Those who disciple kids must be vigilant in aligning their own worldview with the mind of Christ, so they can then help protect our children from being swept away in the currents of our increasingly “me-centered culture.” As Ted Johnston noted in his worldview article in last month’s Equipper, there is a very strong “me-centered” current in our Western world that shapes the worldview and identity of many people. We would be naïve to think that this current does not taint our approach to youth and children’s ministry. However, it doesn’t have to.
As we let the Holy Spirit lead us deeper into the conversion of our own worldview, we can, in turn, find healthier and more effective ways to love our kids to life, rather than to death. We can be a powerful voice in their lives, pointing them to Jesus, the water of life, where true freedom and life-giving identity flows.
So, I encourage you to do the hard work of building awareness of the cultural soup we swim in, while developing a Christ-centered worldview that enables our participation with Jesus by the Holy Spirit, in discipleship with our children. I highly recommend reading Ron Highfield’s book (pictured at right), which was recommended by Greg Williams and Ted Johnston in last month’s Equipper. In my opinion, it’s a top read for anyone who wants to be informed and equipped in doing ministry in our culture today. I also encourage you to follow the discussion here in Equipper on this topic. As we move forward together in this direction, we can engage in healthy dialogue leading to better understanding and practice in how we disciple our young people.
It’s the time of year when churches may want to offer a “Back-to-School Blessing” event for the kids (children and teens) and teachers in their congregation and target community. If you’ve never held an event like this, you may wonder what one would look like. Or you may be asking why you would want to hold an event like this.
The “why” of having a Back-to-School Blessing is directly tied to the “who” question we often ask: “Who is this God we serve?” The answer is that this God is a blessing God—a good God who blesses. He shares his blessing with us and calls on us to share his blessing with others.
Throughout the Bible we see this blessing theme. In the Old Testament, God promises to bless Abram (Abraham) and that in turn he (Abraham) would be a blessing to others, ultimately the whole world (Genesis 12:2). In the New Testament, Paul offers praise to God in Ephesians, acknowledging that Jesus has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul continues in this passage to list specific things God has done in Jesus as blessings to us. Why? Because he is a blessing God!
Since we serve a good God who blesses, we can participate in his blessing work by intentionally finding ways to bless others. In this work of blessing others, we are wrapped up in the loop of blessing that the Triune God shares with us. As we share in his blessing life, we become witnesses to the God who has so richly blessed us in Jesus Christ.
The shape of a Back-to-School Blessing event can vary greatly, depending on your context and what you are trying to achieve. It could be as simple as calling all the children and teachers (school teachers and Sunday school teachers) together during a worship service to ask a blessing over them for the upcoming school year. This can be worked into your church service in many ways. It could also be more involved by adding an outreach component leading up to the event, like coordinating a collection and distribution of school supplies to children in need in the community.
In both activities, you can invite others in the community to participate, either in the Blessing Service, the service project, or both. There may be additional opportunities in your community that arise as the new school year approaches where the Spirit may be leading you to participate.
No matter what shape your event may take, if you choose to have one, a Back-to-School Blessing not only becomes a blessing for others, but it serves as a witness of our blessing God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and the hope we have living in communion with him.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 13:13)
Last month’s issue of Equipper highlighted GCI’s newly launched website, GCI Resources. This website provides a wide array of discipling tools, including We Believe. This new publication from GCI provides a comprehensive review of the core beliefs of our Christian faith. There is an edition for adults and older teens, and another for youth (younger teens and older children). To download a PDF of the youth edition, click here.
If you are in a role where you could use some help in walking children through the core beliefs of our Christian faith, I think you will find the youth version of We Believe a welcome tool. The heavy lifting is already done for you by providing a list of questions and answers along with supporting scriptures that illustrate the point. The scriptures provided can be memorized by the students, giving them a strong biblical foundation in their journey.
Whether you want to use this tool in a church youth program or if you are looking for a way to lead your own children to a fuller understanding of the Christian faith, We Believe is an easy and accessible tool that allows you the flexibility to set a pace appropriate for your students.
Here is a sampling of some of the questions and answers you will lead your children to learn using We Believe:
Question 3: What makes you a child of God?
Grace: God’s gift of love that I do not deserve and cannot earn.
By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Question 27: Is Jesus just another human being?
No. Jesus is fully God and fully human. As “Immanuel” (meaning “God with us”), Jesus is God just as the Father and the Holy Spirit are God. Jesus is also human, just as we are.
The virgin will conceive and gift birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23)
Question 59: Why do we pray to God?
Because we were created to live in close relationship with God, who wants to hear from us, his children. Our hearts long for God, for we need God’s presence, help and guidance every day.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Many questions like these can give you the confidence that you have exposed your students to the essential beliefs of our faith. I encourage you to take advantage of this resource in your efforts to disciple the children in your care.
Kid’s Korner this month is from Georgia McKinnon, a mom and children’s minister who serves as Registrar at Grace Communion Seminary.
It’s almost summertime here in North America, and with the onset of summer comes a flurry of activity for children’s ministry: VBS, pool parties, picnics, summer camps, movie nights, mission activities, and more! Before you know it, it will be time to plan a back-to-school bash! Whew!
Summer is a great time to intentionally engage children in ministry—at church and outside of church. But summer planning and activities can also be times of stress and anxiety, especially for smaller congregations, which may have unpredictable attendance. Anxiety creeps in as we ask questions of ourselves and others: Which families will be at church this week? Will there be someone to teach Sunday School? Will there be anyone to attend Sunday School? How do we plan our VBS when everyone is taking their vacation in a different week? Why won’t more volunteers sign up to help? Should I plan more activities, or should I take some off the calendar? Does anybody even care?
I don’t even pretend to have solutions to the logistical problems we often face as we participate in ministry. But I know the one who does! He is more interested in us and our children than we could possibly imagine! He is calling us to a deeper trust in him—a deeper reliance on his work in our lives and in the lives of our children and in our congregations. He is working deep within us, in ways that we often cannot see. He is far more concerned about us personally than about the quality of program we are able to pull off or how many people show up at our events.
Jesus is not calling us to be anxious. He is calling us to live in his peace. As we do so, we can minister in his strength, knowing that he is doing the work and providing the increase. We don’t need to be worried about too few (or too many!) kids showing up because we know that Jesus will show up! He is already at work, and we are invited to participate! Now that’s having fun in the Son!
This month’s Kid’s Korner is from Equipper Editor Ted Johnston.
As noted in Greg’s letter, we’ve launched a new GCI Resources website. It provides a catalog of resources to use in discipling people of all ages, kids included. Here are highlights of what the Resources website provides related to discipling kids:
GenMin. Beginning with the landing page at https://resources.gci.org/genmin, you’ll find information about Generations Ministries, the youth ministry arm of GCI. Information is given about GenMin’s camps, short-term mission trips and leadership development programs.
We Believe.Athttps://resources.gci.org/we-believe you’ll find information about GCI’s newest tool for discipling adults and kids. We Believe provides a comprehensive review of the core beliefs of our Christian faith. There is a version for teaching older teens and adults, and another version for teaching younger teens and older children is coming soon. Check it out!
This Kids Korner is from GCI pastor Lance McKinnon.
As we celebrate the special days in the Christian worship calendar, we are swept up in the grand narrative of Holy Scripture and our thinking is transformed. That being so, I want to give you a “heads-up” concerning May 13, which this year is Ascension Sunday. That day gives us opportunity to share with our kids an important gospel story. I encourage you to rise to the occasion!
Pun aside, it is unfortunate that many churches overlook Ascension Sunday, failing to give it the focus given to other celebrations on the Christian calendar, like Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter. If you are leading a children’s program, you can avoid this deficiency by using Ascension Sunday to teach your children the story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. In doing so, you will help them become more familiar with the full scope of Jesus’ life and thus avoid some of the misunderstandings that come when the Ascension is neglected.
There is a good chance that as you grew up you weren’t exposed to a lot of teaching concerning the Ascension. I certainly wasn’t. If you don’t feel knowledgeable enough to teach the implications of the Ascension, don’t let that keep you from teaching the basic story. Stories have a way of working on us over time, helping us travel down thought-roads the Spirit likes to help us travel. If your children know the story, and know it’s part of the overall story of Jesus, they will be well-served. If you can go deeper with them, depending on their age, then please do so. In the story of our Lord’s ascension, there is wonderful, encouraging and exciting good news for us all. My prayer is that we will give our kids a lift in coming to know well the stories of Jesus, who in the Spirit lifts them up in his birth, life, death, resurrection…. oh, and his ascension.
Looking for some help in teaching kids about the Ascension? Click here for a sample Sunday school lesson. For some adult-level background, click here for a related sermon, and here for an article.
This issue of Kid’s Korner is from long-time children’s minister Georgia McKinnon who recently was appointed to serve as Registrar for Grace Communion Seminary, starting in April.
I’m often asked, “What curriculum should I use for our children’s ministry?” While there is no one answer that fits the needs of every congregation, Kid’s Korner this month will share some resources that may be helpful for your needs.
Sunday School lessons are easier to find and access than they ever before, but this also presents the challenge of discerning between resources that point faithfully and accurately to who God is. Some resources are better than others in that regard. You will find resources that can be used as they are written, and others that may need some modifications to reflect a more faithful theology.
Before sharing the resources, here are a couple of disclaimers. Most importantly, as you work with children in your church, remember that God is already working with them, and with you as you teach. Any curriculum that we use is secondary to sharing God’s love with our children through our time with them. Loving, healthy relationships are the fertile soil in which kids grow and blossom. Curriculum is just a gardening tool that can help in those relationships. Children will remember the relationship that you have with them far longer than the curriculum you used. The second disclaimer is that inclusion on the list below does not imply a complete endorsement of all materials by the specific publisher or website. Look for tools that are fitting for your context.
Here is a list of resources that I have compiled, either through personal experience, recommendation, or research:
The Jesus Storybook Bible (www.jesusstorybookbible.com)
This is a storybook aimed at sharing the central story of the Bible—the story of how much God loves all of his children. The book is delightful for children and adults alike. There is a curriculum available for purchase on the website.
This curriculum is built around the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), which is helpful for congregations using the RCL in their sermons each week. The curriculum includes a video component, and you can purchase this curriculum in printed form or as a download.
Books/publications by Karyn Henley (http://karynhenleyresources.com)
Karyn offers resources to use with infants through elementary age. The materials are solid in their presentation of Bible stories, but this curriculum requires more teacher preparation than some of the other choices. Karyn has written a Day-by-Day Kids Bible designed for children ages 7-10, an Easy to Read version of the Day-by-Day Bible for younger children, and several devotionals.
The Bible Project (https://thebibleproject.com)
Though not written specifically for children, this highly visual resource would likely work for teens. Its mission is to show that the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. It features animated videos that convey the message of each book of the Bible as well as videos that trace themes throughout the Bible. This is a great resource for getting grounded in the unified message of the Bible.
Shortly after college, I decided to investigate a teaching career in the public school system. I signed up to substitute teach at a nearby middle school to see if this would be a good fit.
I got my answer the first week. It was Friday during the last class of the day. The kids were ready to go home, and I quickly realized I had little influence in that room. These kids needed leadership, and I aimed to give it to them. But everything I did only made matters worse.
I began with threats of extra work. No response. I carried out those threats. Nothing. I then had some of the more troublesome students sit in the hallway. This was a miscalculation—I had now incentivized the other children to join their ranks. The noise level got worse, and the kids were running all over the place. I did what I thought any self-respecting man should do—I rose to my full stature of 6 foot 3, stuck out my chest like an attacking rooster, and crowed at the top of my lungs: SHUUUTUUUP!!!
This set in motion a series of events. First, the room came to a screeching halt as each child turned towards me with a wide-eyed, open-mouth stare, as if seeing me for the first time. Then, they started looking at each other, their open mouths slowly closing into grins, till finally I heard the sound that brought my short teaching career to a welcomed end—snickering.
I had nothing. I stood there, humiliated, wondering if there were legal ramifications for abandoning a class without notice. Then, before I could turn around and escape, every kid in the room abruptly stood to attention, scampered to their desk and sat down as if waiting for instruction. I turned around to find that my shout for silence was received as an SOS call by the teachers down the hall. There in the doorway stood three ladies, half my size, and twice my age. They weren’t glaring, scowling or even frowning. They spoke no words at all (and thankfully they weren’t snickering). They just stood there with the presence of an immovable fortress. I realized it was time for me to join my students by scampering to my desk to await their instructions. The only thing appropriate about class that day was its subject—history.
That may not be the best story to set up an article on leading our children. Clearly, I’m not qualified. But those three ladies taught me something about how the Trinity views leadership—it’s about relationship.
As a new substitute teacher, I was completely disconnected from those kids. My attempts at bringing them onto my agenda were pointless. But the three ladies in the doorway knew these kids inside and out. They were probably teaching before most of those kids were born. The kids knew them—they had been taught in their classes and had eaten with them every day in the school year. These wise and skillful women didn’t need to say or do anything for the kids to fall in line. They just needed to be seen.
It seems this was part of what Jesus was getting at when he told the disciples to basically get out of the way and “Let the little children come to me” (Matt. 19:14). The disciples had their own agenda, which didn’t allow room for children to see Jesus. In contrast, Jesus treated the children as one who knew them before they were even born. They belong to him and to his kingdom, and it’s his relationship with the children that sets the agenda. Not the other way around.
Jesus’ reprimand of the disciples stands as a cautionary warning to not lead children with our own agenda driving our actions. As we follow Jesus’ lead, we see that blessing children with hands-on relationship is what he is up to. It is in a hands-on relationship that Jesus is seen at work, bringing forth blessing for each child. He is still doing that today and invites us to join in.
Whether we are a worker in a children’s ministry, a parent, or an overseer of children in some other compacity, we all have the call to let children see Jesus through the blessing of hands-on relationship. Like adults, children see Jesus most clearly in the eyes of others who do not overlook them.
I wonder how many times I’ve let my personal agenda blind me to the needs of a child who would have been blessed with just a little attention from me. I can think of many times when I was a youth that positive attention from an adult—an encouraging word, a gift, time spent without an agenda—blessed me in ways I still draw from.
Perhaps this approach does not sound like real leadership, at least not the way we usually think of it. Isn’t leadership about leading others into fulfilling an agenda? Perhaps, but when the agenda is about relationship, our view of leadership radically changes. Relationship is not a means to get kids on board or in line. Relationship is both the means and the ends.
Though understanding this does not negate our responsibility to teach and train our kids, it does remind us that we do so via relationships, which are primary, with all else flowing from them. In and through relationships, our kids are helped to see Jesus in unhindered ways. How they respond is then between them and the Spirit and we can provide a guiding hand. Relationship is thus vital to discipleship—it helps kids see Jesus, and it helps us, their disciplers, see Jesus as well.