Kids and Classrooms, part 1: Love them. Don’t bribe them.

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Children’s ministry is a good thing. I would say it’s a necessary thing. But if we are going to do it, we should desire to do it well for the sake of God’s glory and the kids we are trying to reach.

But this still brings up the question of how to operate within a classroom full of children. Here are four essentials for children’s ministry classrooms. Three big DOs and one clear DON’T:

DO: Win kids’ hearts by loving them first

Building and establishing a relationship is where any and all true ministry begins. We must demonstrate our love and compassion for the kids we’re seeking to teach. As the relationship grows, the opportunities to speak truth directly into kids’ lives will increase as well. You don’t only need to know kids in order for your teaching to be effective. For them to hold on to and apply that teaching, the kids must know and trust you as well. Remember that we aren’t simply teaching head knowledge to kids. We’re preparing them to hear truth in hope that God will transform their hearts.

DO: Show kindness.

Another key to building a relationship with kids is showing kindness towards them. Remember, they are kids and sometimes there is loudness, and silliness, and random questions that come along with being a kid. We have to allow them to be who they are (within appropriate boundaries) if we expect to have an eternal impact on their lives. Showing them kindness builds rapport and communicates the attempt to understand where they are at.

DO: Teach with earnestness and excellence.

Loving kids well will also mean that our teaching is done with earnestness. Kids must have confidence that we know what we are talking about. The pathway to engendering this confidence runs through letting the lesson have its effect on us first. We can’t give away what we don’t possess; we can’t teach what we haven’t applied first in our own lives. When God works in us first and then through our teaching content, our teaching will be done in earnest.

A final loving thing that teachers can do is use illustrations and anecdotes. Getting (and holding) the attention of children is often a difficult task. We must be willing to teach in ways kids can easily understand. The use of these two techniques will help the children process and use what is being taught.

DON’T: Bribe them.

Bribes are sometimes used with children to either gain compliance or modify behavior. Neither is the goal of what we are attempting to teach. Giving rewards for hard work is one thing, but bribing doesn’t show love or concern, it shows that we are simply filling time until parents arrive.

A vibrant children’s ministry is an important ingredient to any healthy church. In order to keep this ministry vibrant, demonstrating love, winning rapport, and avoiding bribing students will keep kids not only interested, but opens the door for the Holy Spirit to work.

Kids and Church, part 4: Obedience over Knowledge

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Before jumping in here, read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

“… Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15b ESV)

When it comes to discipleship, it’s important to stress obedience over the accumulation of knowledge. This is especially true when it comes to your own kids. The temptation for parents is to simply give them the facts of faith, forgetting that the facts don’t lead to faith. Being able to apply those facts to real life is what obedience is.

But how do we teach them to obey? What concepts do parents need to keep in mind when it come to disciplining their kids? Here are three:

1. Teaching

Teaching will always play a role in discipleship. It has to. Those being discipled need to be taught correct doctrine. Without proper teaching, they are likely to be “tossed to and fro” (Ephesians 4:14) by anything that sounds close to truth. And, when it comes to teaching, parents need to remember it’s about more than mere information. We don’t just need our kids to remember a bunch of facts, but rather to help them see why the truth we are teaching is important.

To do that we have to break down the information into its three components: the precept, the principle, and the command. By precept, I mean the action or conduct that is being proposed through this teaching. By principle, I mean the rule by which that action or conduct is connected to the teaching. By command, I mean the authority behind the teaching. All three are necessary for teaching to be truly effective. Without all three components what is happening is not discipleship; it ends up being moralistic behavior modification.

2. Advising

To this kind of teaching, advisement or counsel must be added. In order for advice to be most effective, it must be personal to the person, their situation, and their stage of life. This is where we help those we are discipling to apply the teaching to their lives. While there are always general ways Scripture is applied to our lives, there are also specific ways it applies in the here and now. Helping those we disciple find those applications puts them on the path towards obedience.

3. Modeling

The final kind of teaching is modeling. Discipleship is most effective when the disciple-maker lives out what he is teaching. As we model what we are learning and teaching, those we disciple see how what they are learning is applied everyday. Obedience on our part can inspire obedience on their part. 

It’s not just what we teach them that’s important, it’s how we teach them that will bring about real heart change and the sort of obedience that is the mark of true faith. This is food they need as well as the kind of feeding Jesus expects.

You Can Say That Again

If you've taught children (... or youth ... and sometimes even adults) for any length of time you will invariably hear, "I've heard that before!" Or maybe, as you've been preparing to teach one of those groups you've thought to yourself, "I've been through this already." Repetition gets a bad rap. While we may have heard the words before, we probably didn't apply them to our hearts and lives.

Here's what Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote on the topic of repetition in his commentary on 1 John,  Life in Christ:

"... repetition is the very art of teaching. Wise teachers always repeat themselves. There are certain things that can never be repeated too often, and although John is an old man, he is a teacher." 

As we are in the season of Advent, we need to be reminded again (and afresh) of the reason for this celebration. We must enter into this season with awe, worship, and submission; and that doesn't happen apart from being reminded again and again. It doesn't happen without repetition.

Teachers, repeat away! You can never hear the life transforming words of the gospel too much! Few of us were converted the first time we heard it. We have all been changed through someone's faithfulness to the message and their willingness to repeat it over and over again, in many different ways, on many different occasions.

I'll say it again (for emphasis), "Repeat away!"

Quote from pg. 205 of Martyn Lloyd-Jones' Life in Christ (Crossway, 2002).

Family Friday Links 1.26.18

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Here's what we've been reading online lately:

Greg Baird had a post on Children's Ministry Leader helping leaders understand the need for vision and how to people understand it. He reminds leaders, "I have to take responsibility for communicating the vision effectively." We aren't much of a leader if we aren't taking this responsibility seriously.

David Murray had a post on the Desiring God site on helping kids read the Bible. He wrote, "Earnest Christian parents want to help their children learn to read, understand, trust, and love the Bible. But most of us find this to be a significant, even daunting, challenge." Parents, this is both helpful and needed. Take advantage of this help.

Gospel-Centered Parenting had a post kids and doing ministry. It reads, "There are times when conversations are interrupted, children embarrass us, we are TIRED." But these aren't reasons to not do it. If you're a parent (especially of little ones), this will be an encouragement to you.

What have you been reading online lately? Leave us a link to check out in the comment section.