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! 

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.

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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Snippets of Posts and Quotes: Take 3

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LOVE  IN  ACTION :

“The church needs to be the safest place on earth for children from hard places and for the families called to love and care for them.” —Michael Monroe

COMPASSION:

“We have a large and growing team of compassionate, respectful, Christ-following volunteers who love to see God work in the lives of those who learn differently.”  —Irving Bible Church special needs ministry

TRUE  MISSION:

“You cannot have true mission while ignoring the disabled! They too, are marred by sin, they too need to be told of the beauty of salvation, they too need to be our mission, they too are the church.” —Tim Challies   (http://www.challies.com/articles/the-disabilities-dilemma)

SUFFERING:

“I have thanked thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn. I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory. Thou divine love, whose human path has been perfected through sufferings, teach me the glory of my cross and the value of my thorn.”  George Matheson

GRACE:

“The early church didn’t say, “Look what the world is coming to!” They said, “Look what has come into the world!”  —Carl F. Henry

CHARACTER:

“All of us have wondered at times why God doesn’t do more to fix our problems. But our human eyes often fail to see that God isn’t rushing to change our circumstances because he is concerned with a much more serious problem—our character. While you struggle with the woes of this world, God’s main occupation is preparing you for the world to come. The focus of what God is doing in your life takes place in you, not around you” — Andy Stanley

 IMMEASURABLE  VALUE:

“One of the topics we discussed frequently, as we journeyed from city to city, was the value of every human being. Not because of who we are, or what we do. But because of Whose we are, and what He has done for us. By endowing us with His image, God has imparted to us immeasurable value. As Professor Jerram Barrs from Covenant Seminary says, we should learn to look at every human being and say, “You are glorious!” We ought to see the goodness, truth and beauty of God in every person we meet. One way I like to think of the image of God is that it is like a mirror. We image God in the ways that we reflect the essence of His character through our God-given capacities. But the problem is this: because we live in a fallen/broken world, the mirror is cracked. We have cracked bodies, cracked spirits, cracked emotions, cracked minds, and cracked relationships. So here is the challenge: What will you and I focus on? Will we focus on the cracks? The brokenness? The marred aspects of the image? Or will we focus on the reflection—distorted as it may be?” — Stephanie O. Hubach  (http://specialneedsparenting.net/open-eyes/)

CHILDREN’S  MINISTRY:

“What the future of children’s ministry needs most for success is a return to an emphasis on the study of and teaching of the word of God, and less on making ministry easy for volunteers, attractive to families and processing large groups of children through fun environments. That hasn’t produced disciples who will walk  with Jesus for life. The future doesn’t need more technology – it needs deeper and better relationships. If technology can foster more connectivity or methods of relating, fantastic! But to often we look to the future as though it has some new things we need for success, when the truth is we already have everything we need.” — Karl Bastian

Snippets of Posts and Quotes: Take 2

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GOSPEL-HUMILITY:

“If we were to meet a truly humble person, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” — Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness

GRACE:

“Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unloveable. Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love.” — Tullian TchividjianOne Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World

UNCOMFORTABLE  GRACE:

“God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you couldn’t achieve on your own.”         — Paul Tripp

FAITH:

Bono: Who is Jesus? A rockstar talks about Jesus, faith and prayer.

PRAYER:

“A praying life is interconnected with every part of our lives. Learning to pray is almost identical to maturing over a lifetime. When life makes sense, it becomes a journey, a spiritual adventure. Writing down the adventure as it happens gives us a feel for our place in the story God is weaving in our lives. When we keep a prayer journal, we can reflect on what God is doing, on the patterns of our Father’s care instead of reacting to life. If we see our lives as a pilgrimage, then it becomes an integrated whole. It makes sense. When we understand the story, it quiets our souls. It’s okay to have a busy life. It’s crazy to have busy soul.”

KNOWLEDGE:

“…There are some who long to know, simply for the sake of knowing, and that is shameful curiosity. Others long to know to show off before others, and that is shameful vanity. There are others who long for knowledge to make a fat profit from it, or to make honors from it; and this is shameful profiteering. But there are those who long to know in order to be of service to others; and this is charity…” — Bernard of Clairvaux

GOODNESS:

‘His sovereignty is exercised in a way of grace. All shall work together for good; everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds.”  — John Newton, Puritan Sermons

FAITHFUL:

“The word faithful can be illustrated by the image of the strong arms of a father that uphold and protect his helpless child. When the word faithful is used with regard to God, it means that He is worthy of absolute trust, and that we can depend upon Him without doubt or reservation. It is important to understand that God is faithful, not because He does everything we want, but because He does everything that He has promised.” — Paul Washer, The One True God

LEADERSHIP:

“Leadership is the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its normal limitations.” — Peter Drucker 

CHILDREN’S  MINISTRY:

“Everybody needs someone who knows their name, and what’s happening in their life.”  — Lead Small

CONVERSATION:

“I believe that folks who are de-churched or seemingly apathetic toward Christianity are sending the church a clear message. They want us to demonstrate how a book written several thousand years ago could possibly have something to say to them in this day and age. I think we owe them that much, don’t you? …I think that real people talking about real faith in a relevant way is what makes sense in the real world.” — Doug Pollock, God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally

A Sincere Faith

A Sincere Faith

 A Sincere Faith | 40 Gifts of Lent | Gift 32

Today’s Reading: 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 2 Timothy 1:5

I looked at our family genealogy tree, tracing the branches and limbs from generation to generation. I stopped at a large limb with the names of my parents written in bold black ink and in smaller letters, written on thin branches growing from the limb, are the names of their four children, my siblings and me.

My parents modeled a strong faith in the Lord and loved the words in God’s book, taking great delight in reading and thinking about it throughout the day, so much so that God’s words became their language in conversation with us. They demonstrated to us what a sincere faith looks like, not only in how they lived but the way they taught us kids. This is a beautiful legacy to pass on through generation to generation! The roots of my parent’s genealogy tree are spreading out wide and growing deeper into a better story of trusting God.

It’s a beautiful thing to look at our own genealogy tree become deeply rooted in Christ and growing strong limbs of faith…our children. It’s an amazing thing to add small branches, our grandchildren, growing from those limbs and to imagine more grand and glorious trees with roots spreading out wide and growing deeper into a better story of faith in God.

I love that my children are able to talk about the genuine and sincere faith that they remember about their grandmother, my mom and the conversations they continue to have with my husband’s mom. I’m so thankful for the legacy our children have…for all of those conversations that were and are seasoned with grace and the fragrance of Christ.

It is a beautiful gift to watch our tree grow stronger, to add little branches of faith sprouting from those limbs.

A Sincere Faith 1 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

Planting and Watering Little Sprouts of Faith

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Planting and Watering Little Sprouts of Faith | Gift 25 | 40 Gifts of Lent 

Reflections on I Corinthians 1 – 8

It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow  I Corinthians 3: 6 – 7 (MSG)

I finally have a garden. It has taken several years of nurturing the soil and ridding the ground of overbearing thistles with prickly thorns and tap roots very difficult to pull up out of the ground. I had to work hard and steady week after week, staying focused on the vision I had for the garden, to prepare the soil for new growth. Seeing the fruit of my hard work is quite rewarding, seeing God’s handiwork in every glorious bloom.

I Corinthians 3: 6-7 is another gift of hope that I treasure because I am reminded how faithful God has been to our family. There were months and years when our children looked like they were growing thorny thistles with a tap-root trying to choke their faith. My husband and I fought against the fatigue of constantly pulling out the weeds in their lives, turning over the soil once more and planting seeds once again…not to lose sight of the vision we had for our children to produce a righteous fruit, to grow and thrive in their faith in God, by grace alone.

Parenting is the hardest thing you’ll ever do and the more you love your kids, the harder it is. You already realize how much time is involved with planting truth into your kids and to continually fuel their faith but have you considered how much prayer is vital to their spiritual growth?

In the book, Praying Circles Around Your Children, author Mark Batterson exhorts us with a metaphor of praying circles around our children. It simply means “to pray without ceasing.” It’s praying until God answers. It’s praying with more intensity, more tenacity. It’s not just praying for, it’s praying through. [1] That’s when you’ll see the thistles and tap roots of sin in your children’s life replaced with new life mirroring Christ. It’s a beautiful garden!

Praying for our kids strengthened our resolve to stay focused on the vision for them. With your physical eyes, you see who a person is. With your spiritual eyes you see what a person can be. [1]

What vision do you have for your children? What does the garden look like in your home? Planting and watering is knowing your children and knowing scripture so that you can train them in the way they should go. Pray that they won’t just survive but pray that they will thrive. [1] Your family garden will thrive when you saturate your life with God’s word. Read God’s book so you will know what to teach your children and what to pray for your children.

Don’t just pray for them, pray with them. Praying for your kids is like taking them for a ride; praying with your kids is like teaching them to drive. [1] Repeat words from God’s book to your children. Pray those words together. Repeat them over and over again. Your prayer is for your children to use God’s word as their GPS to guide their way.

I remember the exciting days watching our children grow strong in their love for God and the exciting day when they became the drivers of their own children’s faith. Planting and watering little sprouts of faith in the tender hearts of their daughters and young sons.

The effect of planting is faith. The effect of watering is faith. But the decisive cause of faith — the life and growth of little sprouts of faith — is not planting and watering, but God.

 Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him in prayer, pleading for your children.  (Lamentations 2:19)

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[1] Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson