Family Friday Links 2.23.18

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Here's what we've been learning online this week:

Matt Morgan had a post entitled, "A Letter to the Tired Children's Ministry Leader". He writes this letter to those who are experiencing a hard season in ministry. If that's you, go read this post and be encouraged.

My friend, Josh Hedger wrote a post on discipline. This is one of the hardest things for parents to figure out. Josh shares how the gospel can (and should) impact discipline. Parents, this is well worth your time.

Gospel-Centered Parenting had another great post on helping children LOVE home. This post asks and answers the questions, "Can we do anything to help our children love home? And more importantly – should we?" This is an important post to think through especially as our kids get older.

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

Grace-Based Classroom Management

This post first appeared on the Sojourn Network website.

One of the most important skills for a children’s ministry teacher to learn is how to manage behavior. I’ve found that this is particularly tricky for classroom teachers who are conscientious about the gospel. We know that we’re not saved by our performance so creating a list of classroom rules or giving too much attention to how well behaved children are can seem harsh or legalistic. On the other hand, if a teacher doesn’t think about managing behavior at all, the class can get completely out of control, kids are difficult to teach, and the joy is completely sucked out of a ministry role. So, what can we do?

How DO I manage my classroom? Should I use incentives?

Many ministries use an incentive system—a candy jar or ‘Bible bucks’—to encourage attendance, bringing your Bible, memorizing verses, or appropriate behavior. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. After all, work and reward is one of the basic structures of life. The trouble is that a classroom culture built on rewards for performance doesn’t fit with gospel message we’re hoping to teach. As Bible teacher Jack Klumpenhower explains in his book, Show Them Jesus:

It wouldn’t do to teach that God’s rewards in salvation come freely, by grace, but that rewards in the church come by being good and memorizing verses. Nor would it work to teach that God values faith over superior churchy behavior, and then give prizes to kids who excel in churchy behavior. I couldn’t say that Jesus is better than absolutely anything else, but reward what kids learned about him with a slip of paper redeemable for candy.

In place of incentive-based environments, we’re looking to create classroom environments that are grace-filled. Klumpenhower goes on to describe the following four goals. We want classroom environments that are:

  • Sin-Aware. We don’t pretend that kids are basically good and just need a little direction. Instead, we expect absolutely everyone (including ourselves) to arrive with big problems only Jesus can fix.
  • Delighting in Jesus. We won’t let kids use Jesus to get something else they want more. We don’t approach teaching, prayer, and worship as things to be done because they’re important and necessary—after which we turn to more ‘fun’ activities when it’s time to enjoy oneself. Rather, we communicate that nothing is more enjoyable than Jesus.
  • Grace-Aware. We celebrate and model the work of Christ for us and in us, and we give God the credit for every good change that happens in a kid’s life or our own life. We expect God to bring growth. This creates a place of mercy and openness, because, when God gets the credit for spiritual progress, there’s no need for either one-upmanship or defensiveness, only deeper faith.
  • Focused on the Heart. We’re never satisfied with merely manipulating outward behavior, but instead we recognize that kids who look obedient still need Jesus. We don’t let either rule-keeping kids or rule-breaking kids use their behavior as a way to avoid Christ. We seek heart-level growth in both.

I love these goals. They give a great picture of what we’re aiming for in grace-based classrooms. But it’s possible to come into the classroom with the right heart and still do a poor job handling Johnny when he’s disruptive during the Bible story. In fact, some teachers I’ve talked to feel that if I take away incentives, their classroom culture will spiral into a war zone. This begs the question. Within a grace-based environment, what do I do to manage negative behavior? 

9 Key Strategies

  1. Be well prepared and organized. Know your lesson. Be structured and well paced. Half of classroom management is knowing exactly what you are doing. If you are prepared and organized, children will have less of an opportunity to get out of hand.
  2. Give clear expectations. Make instructions clear, and repeat them. Model gentleness, and use a firm tone only when necessary. Some of the best preschool teachers I know, have only four simple rules in their class. They use interactive hand motions to remind the children of these expectations. Here are the four rules: (1) First-time obedience (hold up one finger), (2) Hands up means be quiet (hands up), (3) ‘Five’ means give me your attention (holds up five fingers and explains that full attention—all five senses, though tasting and smelling aren’t necessary—should be focused on the teacher. Sometimes these teachers just say, “Give me five.”), and (4) Keep your hands and bodies to yourself (wiggle hands out and then quickly pull them in).
  3. Be consistent. Follow the same rules and same schedule every week, and repeat the rules every week. Week to week consistency helps children to feel safe and secure.
  4. Model the way. If the children are singing and doing hand motions during worship times, teachers should be as well. Don’t ask children to do activities that you are not prepared to do yourself. Watch your example, because children are great imitators.
  5. Praise children for good behavior. Encourage kids when they do well. Removing prizes and candy incentives does not mean that we should also take away verbal encouragements. You might say, “Thank you, Rachael, for being kind to Lucy.”
  6. Give the reason why. Discuss the importance of obeying and being respectful with your class often, even with young toddlers. We want to motivate kids to sit quietly and listen, be active participants, and engage the lesson. Stress the importance of listening to God’s Word, obeying God by obeying teachers who are in authority, and loving others by listening to friends. You might say, “Johnny, it’s important to sit and listen quietly, because God is speaking to you through the Bible.” As we teach kids to participate in Bible study and worship gatherings, they are learning skills that they will carry with them into adulthood.
  7. Have a strategy in place for involving parents when a child persists in negative or disruptive behavior. You can download the attached ministry guide that summarizes this post. On the second page, there a sample policy for how to manage particularly disruptive or persistent negative behaviors by getting parents involved.
  8. Don’t motivate by comparison. We don’t motivate kids to express better behavior by comparing them to others, and we don’t motivate with shame. Don’t ever say, “Trey, I wish that you could be more like Ashley.” Maybe you’re thinking, “I would never say that.”  But motivating by comparison has a subtle way of sneaking into our teaching. More often I hear: “Boys, let’s listen up and be quiet like the girls” or “Everyone walk quietly. I want us to be the best-behaved class in the preschool department.” Instead of motivating our kids by comparing them to one another, we want to motivate them by the intrinsic good of what we’re asking them to do. As I wrote earlier “We sit and listen quietly because this is God’s Word.”
  9. Finally, here are a few last DON’T’S: No children’s ministry leader should ever use corporal punishment. Spanking is not appropriate for someone else’s child. Also, never ridicule, humiliate, or deny a child food or drink.

Here’s the truth: The effective formation of our children requires a stable environment. For this reason, it’s important for a children’s ministry to supplement parental training by upholding high standards for behavior, respect, and discipline. I hope these four goals and nine strategies are helpful for you to that end.

Family Friday Links 8.4.17

Here's what we've been reading online this week and found helpful:

Andy Naselli recently had a post on disciplining your kids. In this post he provides his sermon notes on the topic, preaching from Hebrews 12:4-11. It's a helpful outline that parents need to think through and talk about.

Nick Batzig wrote a post about kids that stray away in rebellion. He wrote, " Godly parents should pray that the Lord does whatever is necessary to save their children. Better to have redeemed children who’ve suffered hardship than healthy and prosperous children who perish eternally." Parents, especially parents of teens, this is a helpful post, read it.

Desiring God had a post asking which is better to memorize, catechisms or Scripture? This link is  a video with transcript. This simple answer is both, but I'll let John Piper explain why (... because he does a better job than I ever could).

Scott Kedersha repost a series he did in 2015 of intimacy. This is something most couples don't talk about. He comments on why this is, "Most couples don’t know how to talk about intimacy and may not even know that they can and should talk about intimacy." No matter how long you've been married these posts will enrich your marriage.

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

Family Friday Links 12.23.16

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

Jill Waltz had a post on building your ministry team. She says, "Building a successful team doesn’t happen on accident, it’s intentional. You are a leader of leaders." She goes on to list 3 steps to how to accomplish this.

Trilla Newbell had a post on the ERLC interviewing Lindsay Swartz on teaching kids about race and reconciliation. It starts out this way, "If we believe that the topics of race, racial reconciliation and the unity found in the gospel are important, then in many ways, the conversation and study of these topics should begin and have prominence at home." This is an important and helpful post for moms and dads.

The Gospel Coalition posted a 7 minute video with 3 different pastors discussing what the Bible says about the discipline of kids. Parents, this is a helpful reminder. 

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

Family Friday Links 9.30.16

While at the D6 conference, I (Pat) got to meet some online friends face-to-face. Let me introduce them to you now:

Corinne Noble wrote a post disciplining kids. She wrote, "We need to disciple our kids, but effective discipleship is not going to happen from a stage or in a large group setting. Relationships are the key to discipling our kids and training them up to be Godly men and women." This post was a gentle reminder that all of ministry is about relationships. This is a good read and reminder for parents as well as pastors and volunteers.

Corey Jones recently had a post about personal investment (and no he's not talking about money.) He concludes this way, "Take time today to invest in yourself. The investment you make today can pay off dividend in your future self." He lists three areas that all believers should think through on how this topic.

Scott Kedersha had a post on the importance of marriage ministry and why his church does it. He laments, "Too often the church has fallen short in preparing couples for marriage. We either assume they don’t need it, or we let them slide by with weak and surface-level counsel. We miss the mark by not challenging them on the significance of the decision in front of them." If we expect the marriages and families in our churches to be healthy, the church has a responsibility to train them towards that goal. Pastors, think through your role here carefully.

I'm thankful that online friends are now face-to-face friends and look forward to highlighting more of their content. How have been benefitting from in your online reading? Leave a link in the comment for us to check out.

Family Friday Links 9.23.16

This week's links could be renamed Friday Parenting Links. Here goes:

Paul Tripp has a new book on parenting out and wrote a post about things parents forget. He says, "When we, as earthly mothers and fathers, forget the daily mercies we've received from the Heavenly Father's hands, mercies we could have never earned, deserved, or achieved, it becomes much easier for us not to parent our children with mercy." Kids learn about things like mercy, grace, forgiveness, love and joy (or the lack of the these things) from their parents. While the may experience them other places, in both good and bad ways, the learn them from the people they are closest with. Parents you get what you model.

All Pro Dad had a post on helping kids finish strong. He comments, "Finishing strong will train us to keep pushing forward when faced with times of trial." As a parent who often desires to help my kids just finish, I forget that trials are a means of teaching perseverance.

Joshua Straub wrote about how to make discipline easier. He quote another post when he writes, "Discipline “rescues children from the ‘tyranny of their own desires.’” Discipline guides. Discipline directs. Parents don't be afraid of it.

Desiring God had a post by Jason DeRouchie about the training up of a child. He wrote, " ... the overall context of Proverbs suggests the act of dedicating in Proverbs 22:6 is focused more on an intentional, sustained, God-dependent shepherding of our children’s hearts as they grow into adulthood — one in which the children themselves are aware of the parents’ trajectory-setting intentions." Parents this is hard work. Work you are not capable of on your own, you need God's help. You need a growing faith and belief in God so that you can pass it on to your kids.

What have you been reading online lately? Leave a link in the comment section and we will check it out.

Family Friday Links 6.23.16

Here's what has been encouraging us online this week:

Jen Thorn wrote a post on the dangers of a "parent-centered" home. She writes, "We hear a lot of talk about a home not being child-centered. But all too often, without us realizing it, our homes become-parent centered." Parents, this is a good read for all of us to consider.

Jason Allen had a post on the need for balance between church and home. He concludes this way, "Brother pastors, if a church expects us to win at ministry while losing at home we are right to push back. Let us not neglect our families, but let us not hide behind them either." These are wise words for anyone in leadership.

Irene Sun wrote a post on the topic of children and discipline. She wrote, "We bear witness to the love of the Great Shepherd when we discipline our kids. Again, we are the visible faces of our invisible God. We are saying 'Behold!' not merely 'Behave!'" Parents, discipline is valuable, godly discipline is invaluable.

Amy Julia Becker had a post on kids and small churches. She wrote, "For our kids, church involves worship, prayer, Bible reading, and people who love them. That’s it. No bells and whistles. No performance or productions. Just the frail and broken body engaging in the healing work of Christ." There is a difference between what kids want, and what they need especially when it comes to their spiritual lives.

What have you been benefitting from online? Leave us a link in the comment section and well will check it out.


Family Friday Links 1.15.16

Here’s what we’ve been reading online this week:

Jared found a post by Intoxicated On Life on the subject of when not to discipline your kids. It reads, “Yes, the Bible is clear that discipline is a requirement parents bear before God. But beware. God’s expectation that parents train their children isn’t a green light granting us free rein. I think it’s better for us to consider it a flashing yellow light, urging us to proceed with caution and care.” It goes on to list times when discipline needs to be entered into with great care and gentleness. Parents, check this one out.

Tim Challies had a post on teaching our kids to pray. He says, “By encouraging our children to pray, we are teaching them the language, the practice, and the importance of prayer." Parents, this is a practical help.

A topic that I get asked about often, especially from Dad’s is, “What does it mean to lead my family spiritually?” Luckily, Desiring God has a great post on this subject. You can either read the transcript or spend 14 minutes listening to audio.

Trevin Wax reposted a link to the Gospel Project’s chronological look at the whole Bible. It reveals how we see Jesus throughout the way God unfolds history. While it is a promotional video for their product, it’s a great reminder to look at the Bible holistically.

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