Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

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Children and Self Control

July 20, 2009

My daughter shares some blog postings from her Google Reader from time to time. Recently she shared this article which offers some great insight and practical advice for teaching self control to your children.

If we want our children to grow up with reverence for God, then that reverence is best instilled in the earliest years, which means church is not a place to eat or be amused, but a place to be still and listen and experience God on whatever level possible.

I like the idea in the above blog link of training a toddler to control his or her own body, as an early exercise in developing self control. “You are boss of your body. You can decide to sit still.”

Long time readers will remember that my congregation includes the children (except the smallest toddlers) in the adult worship service with their parents. Of course this creates a couple of challenges: managing the child’s behavior, and making the worship experience a constructive time for the child. I have blogged about this before. Following are a few more blog articles my daughter has sent me in the past, which offer more practical advice for making the worship experience constructive for children:

Children in Public Spaces
Children in Church
Children in Church, part 2
Babbling Babies in Church

I’m sure you noticed that all of these blogs are written by women. Maybe that’s because my daughter tends to send me articles from blogs written by women. But I suspect there is more to it than that. Usually women are much more focused on the challenges of raising small children than men are. That is unfortunate, since the scriptures challenge fathers to bring up their children in the Lord. This is a topic that should be of interest to fathers and church leaders alike, as we carry out our God-given responsibilities to the next generation.

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What Jesus Said About Children

March 8, 2009
Our congregation has chosen as its theme for 2009, “Jesus is Lord!” In keeping with that theme, we have been teaching a series of classes we are calling the “Red Letter Series,” studying things Jesus taught on various topics. Today I want to focus on some things Jesus said about children.

Godly Qualities of Children

Mat 21:14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.
Mat 21:15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
Mat 21:16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
” ‘From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise’?”

Jesus had entered Jerusalem to palm branches and Hosanna’s earlier in the same chapter. Throngs of adults with children crowded to road as he rode into town on a colt, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Later, in the temple, the children continued the refrain. Perhaps the adults were just a little too inhibited by supposed propriety, pride, or fear of the Jewish leaders. But the children had no such inhibitions. They praised Jesus from their uncomplicated, sincere, and humble hearts. As Christians saved by the blood of Jesus, we should praise him like those children.

In our congregation, all children above 3 years old join their adults for the worship service. They have the opportunity to observe their parents singing to God, praying, taking communion, and listening to the sermon with rapt attention (and taking notes!) What a great opportunity this is for the children to learn about worship from the adults! And what a shame it would be if those children saw their parents, or the other adults, with halfhearted attention to the worship service! We adults should worship with our whole hearts, like the children shouting “Hosanna!” When we do less than that, we are leading the children astray.

Mat 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Mat 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them.
Mat 18:3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus held up the example of a small child, calling his disciples to have the same kind of humility. Small children know they need their parents. They have no illusion of self-sufficiency. They completely trust their parents for food, shelter, and safety. Jesus pointed to the humility of a particular child — one who came when Jesus called him, and who stood in their midst obediently while Jesus used him as an object lesson. He called them to humble themselves like “this child.”

Not everything about children is to be imitated. Paul identified to the Corinthian church another characteristic of children we should imitate:

1Co 14:20 Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

We should be like infants regarding evil. Small children have an innocence that most adults sadly lack. Things that used to shock us adults no longer shock us. We see things on television today that would not have been tolerated thirty years ago. We hear language that once we found offensive, which too many of us accept as normal today. We need to return to the innocence of children, to purify our hearts, and to be shocked once again when sin is paraded in front of us.

Interactions with children

Mat 18:6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Most of us have have heard the above passage so many times that it no longer takes our breath away. But those who first heard Jesus issue this warning must have gone home talking about it. Jesus chose dramatic terms to warn us not to cause children to sin. Suffice it to say, a person thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck has no hope of returning to the surface. Are we causing children to sin? Jesus wants us to think about that question.

Why is it such a big deal to cause a child to sin? Maybe because a young child still has a chance to get off to a right start in life. Adults need to protect that opportunity, and to guide the child in the right way. Instead, some parents allow their children to watch the most worldly television shows, to be bombarded by advertising which produces greedy addiction to materialism. They allow their children’s character to be corrupted by bad companions (1 Cor 15:33). They allow them to wear immodest clothes. They leave their children to spend all day under the influence of worldly values, drifting ever farther from God. In doing so the parents contribute to their children’s sin, and may come under the warning above.

The church of Jesus, and particularly the parents among us, need to get radical about being separate from contemporary culture. If we don’t do more than we are right now, we will lose the battle for our children’s souls.

Mat 18:10 “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Mat 19:13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Mat 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Mat 19:15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Jesus clearly demonstrated that he felt the children were worth his time, and he insisted they are worth ours as well. He received them, prayed for them, and laid his hands on them. He was indignant when his disciples interfered. It is never a good thing to do what makes Jesus indignant!

I wonder what Jesus prayed on behalf of each child as he placed his hands on them. Perhaps his prayer for them was the same as his prayer for all of us in John 17:

Joh 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

Jesus gave these children his heart as well as his time. He wanted them protected from the evil one. Whether we are parents or not, we need to follow the example of Jesus with the children in our midst. We need to greet the children in the fellowship. We need to take time during the week to be their mentors, to take a child out for a hamburger, to show that we value them and to share our lives with them. We need to be willing to teach their Bible classes.

Jesus’ mission of saving the world did not mean he was too busy for the children. On the contrary, they were an important part of his mission. We should follow his example, and use every resource available to share with them our love for God, and to protect them from the evil one. Let’s make it our mission to bring the next generation to God!

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Children’s Curriculum

June 7, 2007

Psa 78:1 O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
Psa 78:2 I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old-
Psa 78:3 what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
Psa 78:4 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
Psa 78:5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
Psa 78:6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Psa 78:7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.

I need your help.

One of the great responsibilities of each generation is to pass on their faith in God to the next generation. Of course, first of all, this is a responsibility of parents. But the church as a community also has a responsibility to its children. As a young boy, Jesus sat at the feet of the teachers, listening and asking them questions. Our churches should likewise have teachers who pass along the wisdom of God to the young.

So what I want to learn is, how are other churches addressing this need? Specifically, my questions fall into three areas.

1) What kind of curriculum do you use to teach your children? Is it purchased or developed in-house? Does each teacher come up with their own? How effective do you think it is?

2) How do you select and equip teachers for the children’s classes? Is it just anyone who is willing to do the job? Do you just hand them the curriculum and say thank-you for whatever it is they do with the job? Do you seek certified teachers? Do your classroom teachers feel called by God to this work? Or do you have trouble filling the slots with warm bodies regardless of qualifications and motivation?

3) Do you attempt to measure the effectiveness of your teaching program? If so, how?

I’d love to hear some comments on any or all of these questions from a variety of sources. I am particularly interested in the approach and experience of churches with different historical background from my own, but who still hold the scriptures as the divine standard for the teaching of the church. Of course I’d like to hear of your amazing success stories, but I’d also like to learn from the difficulties you may be experiencing. How are you doing this, and how is it working?

I’m looking forward to the discussion.

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Children in Worship

January 11, 2007

Should children be included in the adults’ congregational worship service?

In my branch of the Restoration Movement, for most of the past 20 years, children have been dropped off in children’s classes while the adults (except for classroom teachers) participate in congregational worship. These congregations were full of young parents with small children. Most were converted into the Restoration Movement rather than having been raised in it, and many had limited or no church background. So it is not surprising that it seemed like a good idea to get all those children out of the auditorium so the adults could concentrate on worship.

In the past year my congregation has re-examined this question. I now see good reasons, both biblical and practical, for including children in worship.

Deuteronomy 29:10:13 You are standing today all of you before the LORD your God: the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the LORD your God, which the LORD your God is making with you today, that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

In Deut 29, Moses is renewing the covenant with the Israelites. This is not a short sermon, and it was not tailored for small children. Yet the small children were present. The Hebrew word translated as “little ones” in the ESV is derived from the word “to trip”. It has a striking resemblance to our word “toddler.” When Moses called the people together for this sermon, he included the toddlers.

Jos 8:34-35 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.

In Joshua 8, Joshua read all the words of the law to an assembly including the toddlers.

So there is a biblical precedent for including the children in worship. This seems only natural, given the importance of passing on the covenant to the next generation.

Mat 19:13-15 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

Mar 10:13-14 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Why did Jesus’ disciples consider it inappropriate for the children to be brought to Jesus? Perhaps they saw it as an unnecessary inconvenience and distraction. The children could not understand what Jesus was teaching. (Even the adults struggled with that!) But Jesus was indignant. He wanted the children brought to him.

I wonder if Jesus has been indignant about our excluding the children from the public worship for the convenience of the adults.

Christian parents are responsible to bring up their children in the teaching of the Lord. (Especially fathers! Eph 6:4) Part of that is teaching them how to worship. The children learn by observing their parents, and participating in age-appropriate ways at every stage. It is not sufficient to hand the children off to a Sunday School teacher for an hour or two each week. Christianity is a family affair. I don’t think you can expect a child to suddenly want to worship God at age 13. It has to be taught from the beginning. And it needs to be taught by the parents.

As we have begun to include children in our worship service, it has not been without challenges. Our members do not have experience in managing children in service. They have not seen it done. There is really nobody in these congregations who has the experience to write books and teach classes about how to do it effectively. Thank God for the internet! I have been amazed to find communities of people online, full of conviction on the subject, who have tackled and solved this problem, and offer excellent practical advice on how to make the worship service a spiritual event for children of all ages.

One book keeps showing up at the blogs that talk about this subject: Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman. Many of the ideas on the blogs are taken from this book.

I’d like to hear some comments about other people’s experiences. Parents, how are you addressing this in your family?