Kids and church, part 1: "Feed my lambs."

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Churches have differing philosophies and perspectives with respect to discipling children. Some emphasize programmed discipleship while others welcome the entire family into gatherings. Still others emphasize equipping parents. It’s not my intention to debate the pros and cons of differing perspectives on children's ministry. I'll leave that to Jared and Timothy Paul Jones. Instead, I simply want to share some biblical imperatives for children and the church community. This is intended to be a series of short posts for parents as well as pastors. The first imperative I'll examine is Jesus’ statement during his restoration of Peter after the resurrection. Jesus said, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). 

This simple statement brings up several questions:

First, who are the lambs?

A lamb is a young sheep. When Jesus says feed my lambs, he’s talking about one of two kinds of young ones. Either he’s referring to those young in faith or those young in age.

Second, what are we supposed to feed them?

Those young in age need to be fed the simple gospel. They need to see their need for Christ. Those young in faith need to be discipled. They must see their need to grow in Christ.

Third, who is responsible to feed Christ's lambs?

There are at least three groups of people who are responsible to feed Christ's lambs:

  • First, parents have the primary responsibility for their children's spiritual growth. Dads and moms must feed their little lambs. 
     
  • Second, the pastors and leaders of the local church have a responsibility to feed children. They are called to be shepherds of the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2). This includes its youngest members.
     
  • Third, the church is responsible. As members of God’s family gathered locally, we have responsibility to partner with parents in guiding the young ones among us towards the Lord. All believers share in this responsibility and are commanded to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20).

Fourth, what gets in the way of us feeding Christ's lambs?

Without being fed the truth of gospel, those who are young in age and faith starve. It's a spiritual starvation. But several things can get in the way of our obeying this simple command, not the least of which are busyness, tiredness, laziness, and irritability.

Finally, when should we feed Christ's lambs?

All the time. But this takes intentionality. By attending church, during family devotions, and by being on the lookout for opportunities to capture and leverage for gospel conversations, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit's work to feed and teach the next generation..

While this will look different in various contexts, the principle needs to be carefully thought through and applied. Our Savior demands nothing less.

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.

Six Questions and Answers about the Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet VBS Curriculum

The Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet: Make a Joyful Noise VBS curriculum teaches children the “why” behind our worship and leads them to respond to God’s grace and goodness through fun, active praise. Each of the five days of curriculum works together to engage kids in lively, responsive praise rooted in the truths of the gospel. Here's six key questions and answers that will help you learn more:

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Why is important to teach kids about responsive worship? Young children love to sing, clap, and dance. Each time we lead kids in worship, we instinctively call them to worship responsively: “Clap your hands! Sing out! Shout Hallelujah!” One of the dangers inherent in teaching kids to worship this way is that we sometimes call for responses without showing kids a clear picture of the Heavenly Father they are responding to. With Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet, our goal is to help kids respond to the grace and goodness God has spoken in his Word. Appropriate for use with churched and unchurched children alike, Clap Your Hands Stomp Your Feet teaches that proactive praise is a lifelong response to the good news of Jesus. Each day connects the truths of the gospel to real-life scenarios through a study of the life of King David, and is written with a heart to call children to contagious, demonstrative praise.

What inspired you to teach responsive worship through the story of David’s life? Fletcher Lang and I used to share a small office at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville. Some of my fondest memories in ministry took place in that one-window room. Fletcher and I would have these curriculum brainstorming sessions where we'd fill up a little white board that hung on the wall at the far end of the office with crazy ideas. This one began with an idea to teach responsive worship using the game Simon Says - God speaks and we respond! I suggested having a Psalm for each day and Fletcher brilliantly suggested using narratives from David's life. 

Is Vacation Bible School still an effective means of reaching un-churched families? Yes. A one-week VBS provides a great opportunity for Christian kids and parents to invite their un-churched friends and neighbors. The un-churched family might see the event simply as a way to get free childcare or as a chance for their child to grow socially. But the child who attends a full week of VBS encounters more intentional Bible teaching than he or she would receive in nearly five months of regular attendance at Sunday School. A well-organized, engaging VBS is a great way to help your church's reputation with un-churched parents as well. Just imagine the kinds of  conversations these parents will have when their children come home after a full morning or evening of engaging the Bible and church community. 

Are there other ways to use the curriculum other than in a week-long VBS? Of course. You could also use the curriculum for a backyard club or for a short-term midweek curriculum taught over the course of five weeks. In addition, a number of our Sojourn congregations in Louisville have shortened the teaching to three or five day programs then finished out the curriculum on the following Sunday. This model both provides an opportunity to celebrate the children who have come to VBS with the entire congregation and gives a clear invite for un-churched families to take a next step toward faith by gathering with the church community. 

What makes your VBS curriculum unique? I think the most unique thing about our curriculum is that the originators and authors are local church leaders. Most VBS curriculums are designed by large publishing houses, and we're certainly indebted to New Growth Press and the work their team has done to make this curriculum available to the larger church community. But we also like to say that our curriculum sets are "by the church and for the church." Our VBS team primarily combines the talents of a local church writing guild that includes moms and dads, local church pastors and Sunday school teachers—all who love kids and want to share God’s good news with them!

What is your favorite activity in the curriculum? I loved making the craft instruments every day. The kids will bring them to worship during the closing assembly and "make a joyful noise." Teaching the to use what they've made to honor God in worship is really fun to me. Also, the giant slingshots in recreation on the day we teach the David and Goliath story are a blast too. I could hang out in that area all day!

The Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet: Make a Joyful Noise VBS starter kit includes a director’s guide, games guide, craft and assembly guide, printables, and much more. It even includes a studio-recorded children’s worship CD and digital songbook produced by Sojourn Music. Purchase now from New Growth Press. 

 

Family Friday Links 2.16.18

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

Chuck Lawless had a post for leaders and pastors about being tired, “... of opposition and apathy.” He goes on to list 10 things we fail to see in the midst of being tired. This is a helpful post for pastors, leaders, as well as parents.

Stoked on Youth Ministry had a post on writing discussion questions. It starts out this way, “As every youth worker knows, and has probably experienced, discussion times can either be amazing or a total flop!” The post then goes on to list 5 tips that will help discussion time be amazing more often. This is a great reminder for anyone who leads discussion, including parents.

Our friend, Sam Luce, had a post on the importance of gospel-centered curriculum in children’s ministry. He says, “The big mistake we make here in our teaching, and our curriculum is we limit the gospel to an event.” He goes on to list ways some curriculum has shrunk the impact the gospel is supposed to have.

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