5 Books that Teach Kids about God's Design for Diversity

As a mom and children’s ministry director, I want to equip children to look at all of life through the lens of the gospel. And, as the mother of three children from different ethnic backgrounds, the way the gospel impacts diversity is a frequent topic of discussion in our home.

Parents and teachers must help children see that diversity is part of God’s creative design. Here are six resources for teaching kids about God’s design for diversity.

1. All the Colors That I See by Pamela Kennedy (B&H Kids, 2018). The first book is a board book that I find helpful when working with preschool children. Kennedy’s book directs the reader’s attention to God, who made all of the colors and has made all things to be beautiful

2–3. Dorena Williamson’s two books, Colorfull: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us (B&H Kids, 2018) and Thoughtfull: Discovering the Unique Gifts in Each of Us (B&H Kids, 2018), tell stories that encourage readers to celebrate and appreciate God’s original plan for diversity.

In Colorfull, children take time to enjoy the colors found around them in everything from bubbles and green beans to flowers and ice cream. With the help of Granny Mac they learn the importance of celebrating colors and not being colorblind.

While Colorfull celebrates all “fifty gazillion” colors, Thoughfull highlights the fact that God created us with unique gifts. We learn that when “we only spend time around people who are like us, we miss out on discovering the unique things about people who are different from us.” In this story the main character learns many valuable lessons from one of his peers who has Down Syndrome. I enjoyed this book because it gives practical ways that children (and adults!) can love their neighbors with special needs and encourage others to see what they can learn as well.

4–5. God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story of God’s Delightfully Different Family by Trillia Newbell (The Good Book Company, 2017) and God Made Me And You: Celebrating God’s Design for Ethnic Diversity by Shai Linne (New Growth Press, 2018) are also excellent resources that speak to God’s design for diversity.

Newbell’s book is beautifully written and has vivid and colorful illustrations. The illustrations serve the book in a unique way to further develop the message that everyone is different and valuable because God made us this way.

The artwork causes the reader to linger and hopefully consider: If the rest of creation displays such range of diversity, why would humanity be any different? The breadth of God’s creative beauty should lead us to worship. I love how Newbell points out that we were created to mirror what God is like—to be creative, loving, and able to enjoy.

Both books remind us that God’s creation of people in his image is merely something that happened “in the beginning.” Rather, God has carried on creating people in his image and continues this beautiful, creative work today. In God Made Me and You, Linne writes that we are “made in the womb by God’s hand, no accident, part of his plan”. In light of this truth, both books acknowledge special needs by including within the illustrations children with braces, wheelchairs, a prosthetic leg, a hearing aid and even a little girl with a birthmark on her face.

Newbell’s book is one of the few children’s books I’ve read that deals with our brokenness around issues of diversity without simply assigning blame to Adam and Eve long ago. Newbell gently suggests that we ruin God’s very good idea even today. “We choose not to love God, and so we are not able to love each other like we should.” It is at this point in the book that the illustrator “dims the lights”.  The reader can almost feeI the implications of the text as the “lighting” changes throughout the book. Interestingly, when the lights go down all of the people have a likeness in appearance, all changed to a greenish blue underscoring the fact that when we chose to sin we chose to be the same—broken in our sin. Choosing sin leads us to hate over things that were intended to reflect God’s glory and worth.

The story of God Made You and Me begins with students bullying one another because of their physical differences. The setting of the book occurs in Bible class at a Christian school where they are studying Acts 17. To a young child, it may be a bit of a surprise that such behavior would happen here. But, for adults, this shows the absurdity of prejudice and racism. We know this kind of behavior happens amongst adults within churches as well.

Both books address the issue of diversity by pointing to our God’s creative design and anchoring our hope for racial reconciliation in the gospel. Neither Newbell nor Linne leave us to wait for heaven until all things are made right. Instead, they share the hope and help that we have in our Rescuer and encourage us to be a part of the work that God is doing today through the church to redeem and reconcile his family.

I believe that a better understanding of diversity will help us to better see the Creator God’s beauty and character. Pick up one of these resources and to teach the kids in your care about God’s beautiful design for multi-cultural and multi-ethnic Christian fellowship.

Dottie and her husband, Stephen, are members at Crawford Avenue Baptist, a Sojourn Network church in Augusta, GA, where she serves as Children’s Ministry Director. She is passionate about adoption and special needs and loves caring for her three children—Evangeline, Elijah and Branch.

Family Friday Links 12.7.18

friday links.png

Here’s what we’ve found helpful online this week:

Greg Baird had a post on books Children’s Ministry leaders should read. He states the reason for pulling this list together this way, “Statistics show that reading by leaders is in decline.” Leaders need to be growing and one of the easiest ways to do this is to read.

Tim Elmore had a helpful post for parents listing dangerous apps kids might be using. He says, “Parenting a teen has never been an easy feat, but in today’s digital age, tracking a teen’s behavior has become almost impossible. With an increase of social media apps and the option of anonymity, teens are communicating in a digital world that has no boundaries…leaving parents with no idea on how to monitor their teen’s smart phone activity.” Parents this can be a very helpful post to start this important discussion.

Kristen Wetherell had a post on the connection to parenting and tiredness. She wrote, “Parents, your tiredness may be an unwanted trial, but it’s also an opportunity to trust God.” It doesn't matter how your kids are there will always be seasons of sleeplessness. We could all use the advice given here.

What have you been reading (or writing) online lately and benefiting from? Leave us a link in the comment section and we’ll check it out.

Book Review: The Biggest Win by Josh Cooley

I love football. I love the pageantry and the rivalries. I love the battle in the trenches and the suspense of a scoring drive in the final two-minutes of a game. It’s glorious.

But there’s a different kind of glory that can find its way into the athletic arena—the glory of discipleship. Pastor Josh Cooley writes, “Because of its nature, sports can open doors for discipleship that might not have existed otherwise. As an athlete, you likely spend significant time with others at practice, in the locker room, traveling to games, and at dining tables. Sports helps create relationships, common interests, and shared goals” (77). In his new devotional, The Biggest Win: Pro Football Players Tackle Faith (New Growth Press, 2018), Cooley explores particular ways that spiritual growth and athletics can intersect. In particular, he Cooley unpacks the intersection of faith and football.

And who does Cooley choose as his test case for sports discipleship? It’s the believers who played together as part of the 2018 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles!

The Core Elements of Discipleship

The leaders who run the website, Discipleship.org, have identified essential discipleship components. While I don’t think Cooley intended to include each of them, I found each one clearly present in his devotional. Here’s five components of discipleship that the believers on the Eagles have embodied:that stood out to me as I read.

  • Jesus. Sports is a glory machine, but we all have a tendency to grab that glory for ourselves instead of humbly reflecting it back to the Savior and finding our identity in him. In chapter two, Cooley tells how Eagles safety and special teams ace Chris Maragos has learned humility through the mundane rhythms of family life. In chapter 3, he writes about how Nick Foles learned to root his identity in Christ when he experienced failure. This is ultimately what discipleship is about. Jesus is the original disciple-maker and centerpiece of our discipleship. The goal of our growth is to know, treasure, and humbly promote him.

  • Intentionality. Growing as a Christian disciple, just like growing as an athlete, requires intentional training. During the 2017 NFL season, discipleship for the Eagles believers involved a Monday night couples Bible study, a Thursday night players Bible study, Saturday night chapel services, and Sunday morning worship gatherings (before afternoon games). Planning and maintaining consistency with this regular discipleship plan required effort—even at times from a player who wasn’t active with the team. Cooley describes how one player ran logistics for an away game chapel even after a season ending injury: “Chris Maragos’ torn posterior cruciate ligament two months earlier might have ended his season, but it didn’t sideline his passion for ministering to his Christian brothers” (68).

  • Relationships. Discipleship happens best within the context of genuine life-on-life connections grounded in Christ-like love. We’re all tempted toward isolation. Carson Wentz calls it “island syndrome,” but growth in Christ is fueled by laying down our pride and being mutually accountable. Cooley writes, ““Discipleship doesn’t happen magically… It involves listening to others and having a humble, non-judgmental attitude. It involves prayerful encouragement when another believer is struggling with sin, doubt, or fear. It requires honesty and openness about your own shortcomings. True accountability involves God-honoring transparency, as you strive toward a common goal” (77).

  • The Bible. The Word of God is the manual for making disciples. And chapter 7 directly addresses the right handling of God’s word. In this chapter Cooley identified a key Scripture—Philippians 4:13—that is often mishandled by athletes and he took time to help readers understand it contextually. The chapter helps young athletes to be discerning about the ways Bible passages are normally talked about in an athletic culture. And it teaches simple principles for understanding Bible passages in their original context.

  • Journey. For every disciple, there’s a traceable, but sometimes disjointed, growth story from the new birth to spiritual maturity. The Holy Spirit leads us on this formative journey. Each of the believing players on the Eagles has been on this kind of discipleship journey. But, for Trey Burton, it’s been quite a ride: “Burton has gone from single-parent childhood, to high school star, to breaking hallowed college records, to frustrated player on the verge of quitting, to unexpected twenty-one-year-old father, to undrafted free agent, to Super Bowl champion” (105). Throughout this journey, Burton has rested on the unchanging promises of God’s character. And this faith has grown him into a man who multiplies his impact by fighting sex trafficking through the International Justice Mission (IJM). What a journey!

I love these examples of notable sports figures modeling the key components of discipleship. Discipleship doesn’t require sports, but sports can be an incredible avenue within which a believer can train in the core elements of discipleship. Cooley writes, “Sports can’t save anyone; only Jesus can. But sports can help create opportunities and open doors that were once closed” (128).

If you’re working with a group of young athletes in a local church, or with Athletes in Action or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, this book is a great introduction to the basics of Christian growth. Every chapter includes pointed applications and discussion questions to use if you’re reading with a group. I highly recommend it!

For more from Josh Cooley, check out this article he wrote for GCF entitled, “Credentials.”

Family Friday Links 11.30.18

friday links.png

Here’s what we’ve been reading online recently:

Our friend Sam Luce, had a post entitled “Do Not Lose Heart”. It’s on the topic of the reality of suffering and how we need to prepare for it. Read this, be encouraged … and then pass it on.

LifeWay Kids had a great post for this Advent season. It’s 4 lessons, one for each week, that gives both a biblical lesson and ways to apply it. This is a good reminder for the whole family about the importance of this time of year.

Scott Kedersha is back for the second week in a row with a post for couples on how to deal with conflict from a book he is leading a couple’s group through. It reads, “We often misunderstand what our significant other is saying because of filters. A filter is anything that changes what we say or hear.” The post ends with discussing one of those filters.

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