It's Not About Me

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).

Teachers make all kinds of plans. But things in our classrooms don’t always go our way. We will experience more peace when we hold our plans loosely.

John the Baptist is one of the most interesting characters in the Bible--especially for grade school boys. Let’s face it. He wore camel hair clothes. He ate bugs. And when the Jewish leaders showed up, he boldly rebuked them: “You sons of snakes!” John was confident in who he was. He knew what God had called him to do.

But John also knew his place--second place. John knew his ministry wasn’t for his own benefit. He was called to point others to Jesus. John kept making the point over and over again. He said, “I’ve come to prepare the way for the Lord” (Matthew 3:3). “I’m not worthy to untie his sandals” (John 1:27).  “He must become greater. I must become less.” (John 3:30)

In other words, “It’s not about me.” That’s one of the most important lessons when we’re teaching kids. Whether I’m reading a devotional to my daughters at home or teaching a Bible lesson to kids at a church gathering, I’m tempted. I’m tempted to believe teaching time revolves around my authority or skill as the teacher and my lesson plan. But it doesn’t. God wants teachers to point away from themselves and toward the Son. He must become greater. I must become less.

Here are three things we can do to stay in second place while we’re teaching:

  • Pray. Prayer acknowledges the reality that we’re not in control. We need God’s grace and strength to teach well. We need Him to help the kids to learn. When we pray, we’re asking God to show up in our classrooms. And we acknowledge that He often has better plans than the ones we’ve made.

  • Be Flexible. Even if your lesson is laid out beautifully, class time doesn’t always go as we plan. Hold your plans loosely, because God may have different ideas. Be prepared, and use your lesson plan as a guide. But don’t be so rigid you can’t roll with the punches if the glue sticks dry up or Johnny gets sick during Bible time. Kids need to see there are more important things than following our plans perfectly.

  • Join God where He is working. What if a child in your class shares a particularly vulnerable prayer request? What if she asks an insightful question about the Bible passage? We should recognize moments like these as opportunities. Often God shows up and does something that wasn’t in the lesson plan. Joining God where He is at work may mean changing our plans on the fly. It may mean leaving out part of the lesson you’ve spent time preparing, but it’s worth it.

There is joy in holding your plans loosely and expectantly praying for God to work in your classroom. There is joy in seeing God at work then getting to join him in it.  After all, your class time isn’t about you. It’s about him.

What helps you hold fast to God and hold your lesson plans loosely?

Check out my Bible storybook, The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible from New Growth Press. Every story contains one big truth about God you can teach to toddlers and young readers.

Family Friday Links 12.8.17

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

Corey Jones had a post on having the "salvation discussion". He asks the question, "What could happen spiritually for a family, if instead of a pastor taking over and leading their child to Christ, we empowered the parents in this faith milestone?" He goes on to list 7 things that parents need to keep in mind when they do have that talk.

Joshua Straub had a post with a video link on the topic of family and Christmas. He wrote, "The Christmas season has the power to pull us away from our family." The post goes on to list 3 ways to protect that time.

Gospel Centered Parenting had a post entitled, "Trusting God with your child's wellbeing". It reads, "Whatever life throws at our baby will not come as a surprise to Jesus, and he will be there as a reliable, living, kind stronghold." This a great reminder for all parents.

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

God is the Main Character

In children’s ministry, you’ll find that Bible lessons are typically designed to teach children what to do—“Be joyful!  Be courageous!”  But this is rarely the main point of a Bible story. The Bible was written to show us God. He’s the main character.

One of my responsibilities as a pastor over children’s ministry is to observe our volunteer team as they teach kids each week.  I like to peek into the classrooms and hang out. One week, I observed a class learning about Israel crossing the Red Sea. I sat down with the kids during their snack. I asked, “Who was your story about today?” One child answered, “We learned about God!” I dismissed it as a typical Sunday School answer, and I followed up, “Yes, but didn’t you learn about Moses? What did Moses do?” The child was brilliant. “Moses didn’t do much,” he said. He just prayed and lifted his stick. But God dried up the sea so the people could cross. Then, he drownded all the Egyptians! God was awesome!”

That kid got the lesson’s point better than I did. Where is God in the way we typically teach kids? We may focus on teaching kids godly character. But this is rarely the Bible’s main point.  The Bible shows us God—who He is and what He has done. So how can we keep the main thing the main thing in our Bible lessons?

I’ve found using summary statements helps me keep God as the main character in my teaching:

  • First, I find the lesson’s summary statements. At the beginning of most children’s Bible lessons, you will find a one or two sentence summary of the lesson. Sometimes these are called the “key points” or “main ideas.” The summary for a study of  Joshua 2 might be, “God conquers Jericho. But He spares one family by his grace.” 
  • Second, I ensure God is the subject of the lesson summary. Before I teach a lesson, I review the summaries. I ensure God is the main topic of these key points.  If not, I reread and ask, “What does this passage show me about God? Who does it say He is? What is He doing in this story?” Once I’ve answered these questions, I rewrite the summary ensuring God is the subject.

  • Finally, I put the summary to memory and repeat it often. If you are like me, you find it’s easy to stray from your lesson’s main point. It helps me stay on track if I’ve memorized these key ideas. When I know them by heart, I can come back to them throughout the class time. I use the summary during the welcome to preview the lesson. I say it again after the story to summarize what we’ve just learned. I even review the summaries during the craft and while our kids are eating their snack.

What helps you keep God the main character in your Bible lessons?

Check out my Bible storybook, The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible from New Growth Press. Every story contains one big truth about God you can teach to toddlers and young readers.

Family Friday Links 12.1.17

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Last week Jared insisted that we not put a links post up. He probably assumed you all were out black Friday shopping and wouldn't have time to read it. So this week I've got a double dose of Gospel goodness for you.

Our friends over at For the Church had a post by Michael Kelly about creating a gospel culture at home. It reads, "... can we ingrain the gospel so much in the way that we talk, think, discipline our children, or converse around the dinner table, that it’s part of our very fabric of living, and not just an occasional topic of conversation?" He goes on list a couple things that get in the way  of a parent's primary ministry to disciple their kids. This is a good read for all parents.

Our friend, Sam Luce, had a great and helpful post on protecting girls in a #MeToo world. He says, "We can’t prevent sinful things from taking place in a sin-soaked world but we must speak out and do all we can to prevent the coarsening of society and the denigration of women." He does list 5 ways we can do this. Dads and pastors this is important.

Scott Kedersha had another great marriage post on getting away with your spouse. He lists 4 reasons this is a necessity and links to 4 from a previous post. Has an additional link to another post on the subject as well as doing a giveaway. If you're married, this is definitely a post you and your spouse need to check out.

Don Whitney had a post on busyness and family worship. The post compares our busyness to that of Charles Spurgeon. This is a good reminder for parents and pastors that we aren't as busy as we think we are, and the need for intentionality.

Greg Baird had a quick post messages that matter in Children's Ministry. His focus was on each group that a Children's Ministry Pastor/Leader comes in contact with: the kids, the parents, the volunteer workers, the volunteer leaders, the church staff, the pastor(s), and ends with ourselves. This is a good post for ministry pastors/leaders to remember.

Our friend, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, had a post on the history of children's classes in church. The link to part 1 of a 3 part series focusing on the "whens" and the "whys" of children classes. This is a helpful perspective that people who do family ministry (as well as churches) need to consider.

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