Children’s Ministry: To Be Wonderstruck

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Children are an important part of the church and have an essential place in the covenant community. In the book, Heirs of the Covenant, Susan Hunt explains that our relationship with God is personal and individual, but when that relationship is established, we are immediately in community with others who are in relationship with Him. … In other words, children and adults are in community together. “Covenant is a promise that stretches from Genesis to Revelation: I will be your God, you will be my people, I will live among you.” Children’s ministry is centered in the grace-relationship that God offers to us through Christ.

Stop to consider how many children come to church and the limited number of hours we have with them each week. We have a grand responsibility to shepherd each child towards Jesus. As a child truly begins to believe he or she is God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ, there is no stopping them from doing the good things God planned for them long ago.

IMG_3580In children’s ministry, our purpose is to partner with families in building a spiritual foundation that will lead a child to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. A nursery or children’s ministry does not simply plead for volunteers. Rather, a church teaches God’s people the wondrous reality that we are adopted in Christ and empowered by His grace to reflect the Gospel in a vibrant covenant life. We point kids to Christ and away from themselves. We talk about our sin, our brokenness, Jesus’ love and the beauty of the cross. When a child’s confidence and identity is secure in Christ, they will begin to wonder and discover who God has created them to be.

“As they begin to comprehend the marvelous sovereignty of God, they begin thinking integratively. All of their thoughts about faith and life begin to coalesce around the person of Jesus. A biblical worldview starts to take shape. … Our knowledge of God’s character and His promise determines our view of our lives and the world.” (Susan Hunt)

As leaders in children’s ministry we recognize each child’s unique personality that is created in the image of God. We celebrate the work of Christ in a child’s life in order to strengthen his or her relationship with God for a deeper faith, for them to ponder and to wonder about God’s amazing love for them.  We must continue to “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done … that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:4-7).

A carefully orchestrated children’s ministry with a well thought out purpose and plan will not succeed without dedicated prayer … prayers for God to intervene, for Jesus’ love to rescue, and for the Holy Spirit to make a new heart … for kids to be wonder-struck.

IMG_3570The photos were taken while working with a children’s ministry in Monterrey, MX. The best time ever! Confia en Dios! 

Let the Children Come — Dreaming big wonderful things for our kids

children 2 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. (Matthew 19:13–15)

This very familiar passage of scripture is a beautiful portrait of a gospel-centered ministry to our youngest generation. The bar is raised high. Let the children come. Let us not hinder them.

The purpose of children’s ministry is to assist families in building a spiritual foundation that will lead a child to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Statistics tell us that a person is most receptive to giving his or her heart to Jesus prior to the age of 14. Suddenly, the hour or so we have each week with our kids becomes more significant. There is no ministry more worthy of huge investment than our ministry to children. [1] From Nursery to fifth grade our desire is to see each child be cared for in an individual way. We want kids to learn about God in a fun, safe, loving and nurturing environment.

There is something just a little exciting at the thought of a new adventure in children’s ministry. Maybe it can be a place that kids love so much that they don’t want to miss a Sunday and maybe it’s an experience they enjoy so much to invite a friend to come with them. [2] Yes, we are dreaming big wonderful things for our kids.

It’s a little scary to think out of the box and to have a prayer list that begins with, “What if…” What if we had a children’s worship for three year olds? What if we had a “buddy” for every child with special needs? What if there was a rotation of teaching teams to give adults more flexibility to serve? What if…

You are invited to participate in the privilege of introducing children to an awesome God that loves them … what if you watch and experience powerful life change in their lives. What if you become the beneficiary of a child’s faith and prayers?

“The congregational prayer has long sent shivers down my spine, and it did so incomparably more when the group of children, with whom I have spent two years, prayed for me. Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer [3]

The words Jesus spoke in Matthew 19 and the action that followed quickened the hearts of his disciples to value children. The same resounds for us today. Let the children come … for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.  children [1] George Barna | [2] Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week by Sue Miller. | [3] Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

When Children Pray

The Prayer

“Where a people prays, there is the church; and where the church is, there is never loneliness.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This evening, my four year old granddaughter asked if she could say the prayer before our meal. As we held hands while she prayed, I was grasped by the sweetness and simplicity of Gods love and grace for her and our family. The faith of a child is rich and unencumbered by worries or unbelief. She set the bar high for some tired weary adults.

I’ve been reading the remarkable biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Mataxas. While reading today, I discovered the context of the above, well known quote. I was surprised that Bonhoeffer said this in response to the prayers of children. I was awed by this primarily because I have devoted most of my work life to children’s ministry and can relate to being grasped by God when children pray.

Bonhoeffer was about to leave Berlin and embark on a new mission as a vicar of a German congregation in Barcelona, Spain. He presided over his last children’s service at the Grunewald church and later wrote this account in his journal:

I spoke about the man with palsy and especially about the assertion that your sins are forgiven, and tried once more to disclose to the children the core of our gospel; they were attentive and perhaps a bit moved, for I spoke, I think, with some emotion. Then came the farewell … The congregational prayer has long sent shivers down my spine, and it did so incomparably more when the group of children, with whom I have spent two years, prayed for me. Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness. [1]

I am encouraged by the gift of prayer from my granddaughter and yes, even the children that I spend time each week in the beautiful place that is church. Where a people prays … there is never loneliness.

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40 Gifts of Lent | When Children Pray: Gift 8 | [1] Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Mataxas; Chapter 5.

When God Meets our Deepest Needs

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Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8

As a parent, you instinctively know what your children need, often times before they ask you. Do you give them what they need even if they haven’t asked and when they do ask, are you not happy to meet their needs because you love them immensely?

Suppose your child asks for something which you know is not the best choice for them. Would you give them what they asked for knowing it is not good for them or do you respond with compassion and unconditional love with saying, “No, not now.”

I believe we often overlook the similarities in the way we parent our children and the way that God is parenting us. God is, after all, our heavenly Father, conveying the authority, warmth, and intimacy of a loving father’s care. A father that knows what we need before we ask him. Compare how your children respond to you when they don’t get their way and how you respond to God when life is hard. I suppose we should give our children more grace when they are not content as God is being gracious to us as we learn to trust him with our needs.

In the gospel of Matthew 6, Jesus is instructing his disciples how to pray, telling them that the heavenly Father knows what they need before they pray. I’m called to trust that God sees what I see. In fact, he sees beyond what I see. Paul Miller writes in A Praying Life, “God sees the whole story and is completely trustworthy to be at work on a grand scale, in the minutia, and even in my own life.”

God knows what you need before you ask him.

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40 Gifts of Lent | When God Meets Our Deepest Needs: Gift 3 | A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, Paul Miller

Sunday Respite | Show Them Jesus

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”This is what the Lord says—he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; another will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.” Isaiah 44:2-5

Dear Gracious and Loving Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this amazing scripture that gives us great hope for our future generation, our children’s children. I am thankful that you formed them in their mother’s womb and you promise to be their help. I pray that you would pour out your Spirit upon them and that your name would be written on their hand. With anticipation, I long for them to say with confident assurance, “I belong to the Lord.”

Please keep them thirsty for your love, for your truth, for your word. I pray that you would make the gospel of grace compelling and irresistible in their lives.

Help us, their parents and grandparents to be faithful to pray for our next generation to spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. This is a beautiful portrait of a life rescued by your grace. Please pour out your blessings on our descendants and help us to remain faithful to show them Jesus.

Amen.

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A Father’s Rescuing Faith

Son Rescued

A Father’s Rescuing Faith | 40 Gifts of Lent | Gift 34

Today’s Reading:  Hebrews 8 – end

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. By faith … He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. Hebrews 11:1 and 27

It was several years ago that he found himself in a frightening predicament. He was in a serious situation, a crisis without a clear solution. He was racked with anxiety and fear. There was no holding back the tears, his body shaking with hard sobs and his mind straining to find equilibrium. His father was notified and with urgency went to his son, to rescue his son from harms way.

The son was so distraught with hopelessness that he didn’t hear the voice of his father say, “Son, I am here.”  Again the father said, “Son, it’s me…look at me.”

The son continued to cry into the palms of his hands and again his father repeated, “Look at me. Look at me. This is Dad, I’m here.” The son moved his hands from his face and began to look up towards the sound of his father’s voice. “Look at my eyes, son. Don’t take your eyes off mine.” The son fixed his gaze into his father’s eyes and the father asked his son, “Do you trust me?” “Yes”, replied the son. “Have I ever broken a promise I’ve made to you?”, asked the father. “No”, replied the son, with his eyes fixed steadily on his father.

The son’s hope was returned, believing and assured that his father would be with him through the end. Months and years went by and the father never broke his promise to his son, he was there to rescue him time and time again.

This chapter in the son’s story has two wonderful conclusions…the son was rescued twice. Once by his earthly father extending unconditional love and then by his Heavenly Father, extending the gift of grace. Because of receiving all of that, the son is living a better story now, with his eyes fixed on God and his faith growing strong. And what about the father?  From the very beginning, he never took his eyes off God…he was reflecting God’s grace to his son. When the son looked at his father, in way he saw Jesus, a reflection of God’s love for him, the beauty of a father’s rescuing faith.

(This is another redeeming story of God’s grace to our family)

 Faith Quotes to Ponder:

Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.” A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Tim Keller, The Reason for God

The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in.  R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture

True faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God’s fidelity to His Promises. Francis Chan, Crazy Love

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About 40 Gifts of Lent 

I am anticipating the arrival of Easter and celebrating the most amazingly good gift I’ve ever received. I want to focus my heart on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming. To continue reading, please go here: 40 Gifts of Lent

#LentChallenge
Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday

A Promise for You and Your Children

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A Promise for You and Your Children

40 Gifts of Lent | Gift 18
Reflections on Acts 1 – 6

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. Acts 2:39

As a parent and grandparent, I never want my children and grandchildren to ever doubt a promise I make to them. When I make a promise, I have given my word…I am determined to keep that promise. I want the ones I love most to trust me, to take me at my word, to never doubt that I will do what I say. Granted, I am careful with what I promise because it hurts so bad whenever a promise is broken. Sadly, I’ve broken a few promises even with trying to be so very careful. I’ve disappointed the ones that I love the most.

On this personal journey with 40 Gifts of Lent, I am  discovering and unwrapping a new gift…delivered daily, from the pages of the life-giving Word. The amazing gift is God always keeps his promise. God brings glory to himself by forever keeping his promise. He will never disappoint. The Word he gives is the only true word we can truly trust, without a doubt.

In the beginning, a promise was made to us. A promise was made by the Covenant maker to us…the humanity of covenant breakers. Clearly, he has spoken commands and warnings for us to heed. If we would simply stop, look, and listen (profound words my 3 year old granddaughter says we must do) to his Word of promise, we would love our neighbor, we would be fruitful in our work and ministry, we would we wise with our finances, we would be giving to people in need, we would be more compassionate…

The gift God hands to us is a changed life, by believing his promise of sending his son to rescue us from all of our history of breaking promises and all of our future failures of speaking shallow lifeless words we can’t keep…”I promise, I will not do this again!”

The amazing beautiful gift of God’s forever promise is for me and my children and my grandchildren and beyond!

Stop, look and listen…he is calling you. He is calling you that are far away from him.

A promise for you and your children

A promise for you and your children

Isla and Me

For the promise is for you and your children

About 40 Gifts of Lent 

I am anticipating the arrival of Easter and celebrating the most amazingly good gift I’ve ever received. I want to focus my heart on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming. To continue reading, please go here: 40 Gifts of Lent

#LentChallenge