Happy 500th Birthday Protestants!


October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It's a great opportunity to teach our kids a little history and highlight the key truths recovered during the Reformation. Just below, I've provided a simple summary of the Reformation written for young children adapted from "L is for Luther" in The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith by Stephen J. Nichols, (Crossway, 2010). Then, after that, you'll find a list of party activities for celebrating the Reformation with young children.

The Reformation Story

Martin Luther was just a regular person—like you and me, but he saw the world change in his lifetime, and he had a little something to do with it.

When Luther was alive, many churches did not teach that people should trust only Jesus to be saved from Satan, sin, and death. Instead, they taught that people needed to do special works, touch special objects(like one of Peter’s teeth or the wood from the cross), or even pay money in order to be saved from sin (or have their family go to heaven).

This is not what the Bible teaches. But there was another problem. When Luther was alive, people did not have Bibles in their homes like we do. The Bible had only been translated into one language, Latin, and this was a language most people couldn’t read.

In the 16th century, Martin Luther and other men we call 'the Reformers' helped the church find its way back to the Bible and back to its message—the good news about Jesus. On Halloween night, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted a list of 95 things that needed to change on the door of his church in Wittenburg, Germany. People read what he wrote, and they began to see that the church had turned away from Jesus and his Bible. Soon (and with Martin Luther’s help), the Bible was written down in languages that common people understood.  Very soon there was a whole movement of churches that believed salvation from sin and death comes only from Jesus.

Reformation Day Party Activities

  1. Bible Smuggling Relay — During the Reformation, it was illegal to print a Bible in a language that people could read. So, the Reformers often had to hide Bibles from church leaders and sneak them to the people so that they could read them. Activity: Divide kids into two teams. Have one representative from each team put on an oversized coat over their clothes. The representative for each team will try to carry a stack of books inside the coat. Then, the two representatives will race around a cone and back. Once the representative returns, he will put down the books and the coat, and the next child on the team will do the same. Children take turns carrying books in the coat around the cone until every member from one team has completed the relay.
  2. Diet of Worms (Snack) — Teaching that Jesus and the Bible are the only way of salvation got Martin Luther in a lot of trouble. He was put on trial before a group of church leaders (this trial was called a “diet”) in the city of Worms, Germany (pronounced “Verms”).  For a treat, give the children a different sort of diet of worms, gummy worms mixed into a chocolate pudding/Oreo cookie mixture.
  3. Wittenberg Door —The Reformation started when Martin Luther hammered a piece of paper to the church door in hometown of Wittenberg, Germany. This was a list of 95 things that needed to change about the church.  Activity: Prepare a large red church door out of butcher paper and hang it on a hallway wall. Then, label it Wittenberg Door. Prepare half-page coloring sheets with statements like “We are saved by Jesus alone,” “The Bible in our own language,” and “Jesus is all we need.” Then have the kids "nail" the statements on the door using tape or tacks. You may even consider allowing them to use a toy hammer.
  4. Pin the Beard on the Theologian — One of the great things about the Reformers is that many of them had really great beards (at least that's what Pat Aldridge tells me!) Play a game of 'Pin the Beard on the Theologian' (like pin the tail on the donkey).  ActivityOne at a time, each child is blindfolded and handed a paper beard with a thumbtack poked through it (or a bit of sticky-tac applied to the back). Spin the blindfolded child. Then, point the child to this picture of Luther that you've hung on the wall. The pictures are from blogger Molly Buffington, who reminds us that Luther did grow a beard when he was hiding out from Charles V! The finished product (a very well-aimed beard) will look like the photo below.
Pin the Beard pic.jpg

Hope you have fun teaching kids about the gospel and its recovery by the church just a few centuries ago. 

Happy 500th Birthday Protestants!

Family Friday Links 10.13.17

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Here's what we've been finding helpful online recently:

Mathew Gilbert had a post encouraging those who work in children's ministry. He says, "Kids ministry is foundational in the spiritual, theological, and worldview formation of a person," and "...know that your work is most valuable not only for the spiritual formation of the kids you teach, but also for the future of the church." Workers and leaders be encouraged; your work is valuable and worth the effort, even if you can't see it right now.

Becky Mansfield had a post on what's hurting our kids. She writes that kids today are more depressed and hopeless than ever because of electronics. She goes on to say that this leads to less sleep and feelings of isolation. What I love about this post is the fact that she's not just pointing out the problem but offers solutions. Parents we need to be intentional with our kids, especially in our information over-loaded society.

Dan Istvanik had a guest post (by Doug Clark) on networking. It reads, "So, for all the right reasons, network with other leaders. Pray together. Build relationships. Develop a strategy that reaches more kids collaboratively than you could reach individually. Ask God to provide the resources to make it happen." Pastors and ministry leaders, we need to network. For encouragement. For kingdom impact. For accountability. Remember, all of us are smarter than one of us. There's always something you can learn from someone else, even if they are outside of your particular tribe.

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

What Surprised Me About Pharaoh

Illustration and layout by Trish Mahoney from The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy, (New Growth Press, 2017).

Illustration and layout by Trish Mahoney from The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy, (New Growth Press, 2017).

Whenever I teach a Bible passage for the first time, I always learn something... even if I've heard sermons preached on the passage or heard it taught in Sunday School for years. That was my experience one weekend with a Bible story from Exodus. 

The children's ministry curriculum we used covered the first nine plagues against Egypt from Exodus 7:14-10:29. I've always imagined King Pharaoh, that evil snake, as an angry man with sharp teeth who shakes his defiant fist in God's face. He does act that way sometimes (Ex. 5:1-5). What shocked me in the story was just how religious Pharaoh sounds after he encounters God. Read that again. When Pharaoh encounters God, he becomes increasingly religious. Consider this:

  • After the second plague (frogs), Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron, and he asks them to pray: "Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people" (Ex. 8:9).
  • After the third plague (dense swarms of flies), Pharaoh asks Moses and Aaron to pray for him: "I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the LORD your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me" (Ex. 8:28).
  •  After the seventh plague (the hailstorm), Pharaoh confesses, "This time I have sinned. The LORD is in the right, and I am my people are in the wrong" (Ex. 9:27).
  • After the eighth plague (the locusts), Pharaoh confessed his sin even more personally: "I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you" (Ex. 10:16-17).

Of course, after each religious movement, Pharaoh hardened his heart and changed his mind. He was unyielding. You see, Pharaoh's religion wasn't the pure and undefiled kind God demands. His words of sorrow and regret didn't come from a soft heart that sought after God. Pharaoh was negotiating. He intended to manipulate the Lord.

But, oh, how often I sound just like him! And kids are the same way. They'll negotiate and say things that sound good in order to get out of trouble. Sometimes when we look the most "Christian" on the outside, we're spiritually sick on the inside. What can deliver children (and me) from hypocrisy and hard hearts? 

Only God.

Exodus shows how:

  • First, true Israel is delivered by the Father's sovereign protection. In Egypt, God made a distinction between the Egyptians and his own people in Goshen (Ex. 8:22; 9:4). God's people, who trust him, are protected from his wrath. Even the Egyptians who by faith sheltered their livestock were protected from God's wrath in the hailstorm (Ex. 9:20-21).
  • Second, true Israel is delivered by the Son's bloody sacrifice. For us, it was the next week's lesson. But the first nine plagues lead directly to the tenth. Ultimately, true Israel is saved only by the blood of the lamb (Ex. 12:1-11). The firstborn son is the substitute for us all.
  • Third, true Israel is delivered by the Spirit's transforming grace. Wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites were as fickle as Pharaoh. They sometimes sounded repentant but they wanted to go back to Egypt again and again. So later on, through the prophet Ezekiel, God promised a deliverance by his Spirit. Our new covenant deliverance goes farther than the Exodus. God says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26).

These truths reminded me that God is bigger than my expectations. He is big enough to save me both when I'm a defiant rebel and when I'm a religious manipulator. And that surprising truth about religious Pharaoh was exactly what I needed to hear.

Sign up online at the New Growth Press website to get promotional information about the release of my new book, The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible, or you can pre-order now at ChristianBook.com. 


Family Friday Links 10.6.17

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Here's what we've found on the web this week. We hope it helps and encourages you like it did us.

Corey Jones had a post on leadership and its challenges.. He says, " Ministry can lead you to a place where your motivation and drive feel like a dry desert, screaming for water." He goes on to list several symptoms of the soul and how to take care of them. This is a good read for anyone in leadership.

Aaron Armstrong had a post about the importance of kids ministry. He wrote, "People give Kids Ministry a hard time because it seems to be all about playing games, handing out fishy crackers, and telling kids to be good. That’s not Kids Ministry, though. That’s babysitting. Kids Ministry is about making disciples." This is an encouragement those in the trenches as well as those thinking about serving in this vital are of ministry.

Gospel-Centered Parenting has a post on how to talk to kids about death. It reads, "But Jesus’ weeping wasn’t a hopeless weeping. Nor does ours need to be. For those who know Jesus, death is not the end." Parents, this is a topic we need to help are kids understand.

Trillia Newbell had a post entitled "An Open Letter to Children's Ministry Workers". She starts off this way, "The majority of the time, open letters are meant as a critique. This is not that. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even come close." This is a letter of encouragement. If you serve in any capacity of children's ministry, this post is for you. (... and she's giving away her new book away if you sign up in time, check it out).

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