Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (NIV)

Birth out of necessity to efficiently utilize resources and maximize the involvement of our children, we are transitioning to multi-age formats in both our preschool and children’s programs. This concept isn’t new or novel in the field of education or in churches. We’re already realizing the benefits in our K-6th grade Sunday School class since making the change in September. We are now fully embracing this format in the preschool area with the toddlers and pre-K children. Yes, a driving force is the number of children that we have in each age group- we do not have a consistent, critical mass represented in our previous age/grade level groupings. Thus, we’re merging groups. A commitment to quality remains. In fact, it may be stronger than ever. Our teachers and volunteers are focused on providing quality learning experiences, rooted in biblical facts. By ensuring our base (quality Christian education) we are building the infrastructure and programming that can scale once growth occurs in the church.

Since this is a new idea, you may have some questions. I’ve attempted to answer some of the basic questions below. If you have others, I’d love to discuss them with you. Feel free to drop by my office at any time. I’d love to chat!

What is a multi-age classroom?

A multi-age classroom, also known as a composite classroom, is one that contains children of varying ages and/or grade levels. Inherent in that, the children represent a range of development and maturity levels. In a multi-age classroom, teachers provide content appropriate for all learners. The success of multi-age classrooms is directly related to the level of personal and small group instruction and activities targeted to the ability level. In the context of our children’s programs (Sunday School, Extended Session, Children’s Church and Living Inside Out on Wednesday evenings), our teachers utilize whole group and small group/age specific groupings to bring bible stories, foundational principles and Christian virtues to life for our children.

 

What are the benefits of a multi-age classroom?

There are numerous benefits to both older and younger children that are in multi-age classes. In many ways, multi-age classrooms mirror families and society as a whole. The peer-to-peer interactions are meaningful building blocks for growth. Younger children benefit from the conversations of older children, enhancing language skills, reasoning and critical thinking. They are also exposed, often through authentic and subtle ways, to concepts that they will be more formally introduced to later in life. Older children develop leadership skills. Often very naturally, older children take on “teacher” roles, helping younger children learn and achieve new skills. Seen as role models, younger children tend to emulate their older classmates, reaching to achieve those milestones that they’ve seen others achieve.

 

Will the multi-age format be the norm moving forward?

We will monitor the new format and adjust as needed. The feedback that we’ve received thus far from parents, teachers and children has been very positive. Parents have commented about the eagerness of their children to attend Sunday School. Teachers are able to plan in a more collaborative fashion and integrate lesson ideas that target the various age groups and abilities. Children are enjoying having a larger group of peers with whom to learn.

How can you help us ensure success?

Your feedback is always appreciated. Both positive and constructive criticism allows us to enhance and grow. Therefore, if you have ideas or suggestions that can benefit our program, please share.

In closing, I think Proverbs 27:17 summarizes our new format very well. Children learn from each other. The iron is sharpening iron. At all ages, we have great children that have varied skill sets and knowledge of who God is and who we are through Jesus Christ. By interacting in more inclusive groupings we are increasing the likelihood of them being able to positively impact one another for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Securing A Strong Foundation Through Service

Currently we have an awesome opportunity to stretch our faith and trust completely in God and where He’s leading us.  In the Children’s Ministry area, we are embracing this as a chance to refine our implementation of a solid goal- Being A Deuteronomy 6 Church.  When I first joined the staff at DBC, I shared the vision of being a church that supports the growth of our children in a loving manner, consistent with God’s expectations.  In order to do so, we are capitalizing on this opportunity to ensure quality and excellence in each of our programs.

From the Sunday Experience (Sunday School, Extended Session, Children’s Message and Children’s Church), to our new Wednesday evening curriculum to special events, we are working to provide a safe, loving, fun, Christ-centered environment for our kids.  In most of our programs we are transitioning to a large group/small group format.  This includes engaging in activities as a multi-age group and then processing/re-enforcing learning in small age-specific groups.

Yes, our needs are great, with multiple places you can plug in.  If you haven’t done so lately, ask God where he is calling you to serve.  Click here to learn more about areas that you can support.

I challenge you to seek God’s guidance and faithfully go to where he’s leading you to serve.  Once you’ve determined where that is, please let me know so we can celebrate the work that God will do through you, get you plugged in and work together to build this strong foundation for our children.  I’m convinced, if we simply obey and do the piece that God has called us to do, He’ll do the rest!

Living Inside Out

For the past few Wednesday nights the children and I have been talking about being chosen. In Ephesians 1:4-5, Paul shares with us that we have been chosen by God. Personally, I believe that is a fundamental truth to know, internalize and protect. There is so much in the world that tries to nullify that. We are bombarded with both subliminal and blatant messages of not being good enough. These messages start to erode for us the truth of this passage and as we grow older our confidence in it fades. But, we know that God’s word is truth and it can be trusted fully.

In this passage, it also states that before the world was created, God chose us. So, before anything came into being, God had already decided that both you and I, and so many others, were His through Christ. Take a moment to just soak in the awesomeness of that. Before anything that is existed, He selected us to be His. Not only did He choose us, but he chose us to be holy and blameless in His sight. God loved us.

Because He loved us, He wanted us to be His children and thus, adopted us into His family.   The scripture says “it pleased God to do it.” He cared about us just that much. Although this passage is written in past tense, none of God’s feelings towards us have changed, nor will they ever. His love isn’t conditional, situational nor temporal. It is everlasting.

Solid in our understanding and faith in being loved, chosen by God and a part of His family it is time to live this out. Starting October 8th we will be doing just that in our new Wednesday night program “Living Inside Out”- daring to live our faith 24/7. This is going to be a great experience where our children will learn spiritual truths and practically apply these principles to their everyday lives throughout the week. The following week, armed with their scripture memory makers (memorized bible verses) and completed “Live It Challenge”, children will be able to boldly share what God’s word says about who He is, who they are and what they’ve been called to do.

A few months ago I attended a Children’s Ministry workshop as part of a larger church development symposium. There is one thing that the speaker said that made a profound impact on me. She shared her thoughts on how churches do such a disservice to children and youth. For, as we grow up it is 100% guaranteed that we’ll face challenges, hard decisions and spiritual battles. Although it is inevitable, many churches take a reactive approach to ministry. Instead of proactively providing the tools and resources needed to have a sturdy armor, we send our children out into the world with little to no preparation. Then, they come back bruised, nearly defeated and hurt and then as adults we begin equipping them with the armor they so badly needed 10-15 years ago.

We can’t afford that type of misstep. God’s kingdom is too important to passively deposit biblical principles into our children. Instead, with the same fervor that we support temporal undertakings that have no type of eternal bearing on our lives, take up an eternal cause that means the difference between life and death. “Living Inside Out” is a fun and meaningful way to do this- depositing spiritual truths that will sustain children as they grow and as they live them. Join us on Wednesday nights!

Verb- It’s What You Do!

It's What You Do!
                 It’s What You Do!

I admit it. I LOVE cartoons! Perhaps that makes me a big kid at heart, I don’t know. But, I love watching them (and often use my nephew as an excuse to do so).   Even in my 20s before he came along I was watching Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and sometimes I’d even sneak in a little Disney. In fact, that’s how I came across this catchy slogan – “Verb. It’s what you do.” In my opinion, this was an awesome ad campaign created by the Center for Disease Control to get kids moving and exercising. Every time I watched my favorite cartoons the commercial was guaranteed to play. I liked it so much, I quickly integrated it into my grammar lessons for my students. It is so simple to remember and it emphasizes the purpose of this part of speech- to show action.

Last Sunday during our Children’s Message I shared this great slogan with the children. David Joseph preached about “Passing On the Legacy of Our Faith”, using Matthew 28:16-20 as the text. Most Christians know this passage very well so I wanted to give them exposure to it before transitioning into Children’s Church on the 3rd floor. This passage is after Jesus’ resurrection, just before He ascends to heaven. He provides His disciples with a few parting words, which we know as “The Great Commission”. In it, Jesus provides clarity on what our mission as Christians is. Yes, He is telling us what to do.

Looking specifically at verses 19 and 20, there are a number of verbs in this passage. So, what have we been called to do?

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

Go: We must share the good news with others. Simply worshipping on Sunday and attending classes isn’t enough. It is imperative (and expected by Jesus) that we venture outside the four walls of our church, outside our comfort zones, into our communities, schools, and uncommon places to share what we know and believe about our Lord and Savior.

Teach: It isn’t enough to say we’re a Christian. We need to show others what that means. The children shared ways that they can teach others, such as sharing that God loves us and sent Jesus to die for our sins. Yes! This is a truth that all need to hear and understand. Also, we can teach others about Jesus through our life, modeling the character of a disciple of Christ.

Baptizing: For the children, we discussed how to get people connected to pastors, preachers, deacons, etc. that can help with processing the decision for baptism and then completing the act. As witnesses, we can guide and support others with this vital life decision that has eternal implications.

Observe:  Again, our life can be a model of how to live out our faith and observe God’s commands and principles.

There are some additional verbs in this passage. In verse 20, we see that Jesus did something. He commanded us to do these actions. It wasn’t a suggestion or a hope. No, it was and continues to be an expectation for every believer.

Now, for the part that gets me extra excited! There is a linking verb here. By definition, linking verbs don’t show action but instead they connect the subject to the verb by sharing information about the subject. Verse 20b states “and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” In this affirmation, am is the linking verb. This word is telling us information about our subject (Jesus). This verse states that He is always with us. So, as we go, He is there. As we teach, He is there. As we baptize, He is there. When we observe all these things, He is there. Even unto the end of the world, He is there. At all times, no matter how bleak or challenging, frightening or uncertain- HE IS THERE! As we put these verbs into practice, Jesus is right there leading, guiding and helping the entire way. That is an awesome truth to know and promise to hold onto.

Chosen

“God chose us to belong to Christ before the world was created. He chose us to be holy and without blame in His eyes. He loved us.” Ephesians 1:4

In elementary school, I was the kid that hated the humiliating process of picking teams during gym. Although I have many talents, athletics is not one of them. But every week, I went through the same excruciating pain of waiting for my name to be called to join a team. Because I was a nice kid and in with the “cool crowd”, I usually wasn’t the absolute last one to be picked (but pretty close). But, we all knew I was chosen for my “winning personality” versus how far I could kick a ball or how well I could swing a bat.

The truth is, by in large nobody wants to not be chosen, no matter what the activity is. On Wednesday evening, the children and I talked a bit about this. Each of us has been chosen by God. That fact alone is awesome news. Despite my hang-ups, faults, mistakes and unworthiness, God has chosen me to be a part of his family. In fact, I’ve been adopted into his family. He actively chose and redeemed me to be his child. Through Christ Jesus, I am recognized as His child and treated accordingly.

The scripture goes on to share that before time began, before anything was created, God selected ME. And He hand-selected you too! To know that he thought enough of you to set you a part for his purpose- that is awesome. I don’t know about you, but it almost blows my mind that he cares enough to pick me to be a part of his family. Unworthy and insignificant me.

Why did he do that? The answer is simple. He loved us. That is why. He cared so much about each of us that he made provisions for us to be redeemed to Himself through Christ’s actions on the cross.

This leads me naturally to the next question. Why did he choose me? What is so special about me that he’d select me to be his child? I was chosen because of who He knew I’d be, the skills and talents that are undeniably my own, the product of his handiwork. You’ve heard me speak some on this subject before- the uniqueness of each of us. I think it is so important to celebrate what makes each of us unique. For, that is often where our power lies, in being an asset to God and utilizing what makes each of us one of a kind. Of course as we mature, our talents, skills and abilities will develop and expand in ways we never imagined.

It is never too early to plant the seed in a child’s heart about what makes them special, loved and chosen by God. So, we discussed that too last night. Responses such as “I am good at sounding-out words” may not seem too special. Maybe it isn’t. In my mind, though- it is. That tells me you are determined, focused and don’t give up easily. When asked to identify what is special about each member of our group, one person responded about his sister, “she reads to me”. That displays a loving and nurturing spirit.

We ran out of time, but next week we’ll document our ideas of why God chose each of us. I call it our “Chosen Photo Shoot”. We’ll be surrounded by the words that denote why we are special. It isn’t exhaustive and likely not a literal one-to-one correspondence of what God intends to use for His glory. However, it is a good reminder of the fact that we have been hand-picked by a loving God, entrusted with some incredible abilities and skills that will equip us to be worthy representatives for Him as His children.

Goals for Back to School

Didn’t school just let out for the summer? It sure feels like it to me. But, all our children are back in school now for a brand new school year. Back-To-School season usually carries with it a multitude of feelings. Excitement of reconnecting with friends. Anticipation of what your new teacher and classmates will be like. Nervousness of making new friends or maintaining old relationships. Whether your child communicates it to you or not, often the prospect of learning new concepts and growing in physical, mental, social and emotional realms are on their minds. How can we help our children vocalize them and proactively plan to deal with them?

 

At the last Parent’s Night Out, hosted by the Youth Ministry, Ron led our children in determining goals for the next school year. Each child created a vision board that highlighted what he or she wanted to achieve the coming school year. Most of the children in attendance were either rising preschoolers or kindergarteners. Some may think that at that age they don’t have many things that they want to achieve. The exact opposite is true. In fact, their concerns for academic attainments, health and fitness and relationships are just as real at that age as middle and high schoolers.

 

They did a wonderful job of depicting what they plan to achieve during this academic year! Then, many volunteered to share their goals with the rest of the group. As I think about this experience, I naturally begin to reflect upon the spiritual implications and the foundation we are laying for our children. In Habakkuk 2:2 it says “write the vision and make it plain”. Each child’s vision board is evidence of that act of faith.

 

Now that the vision/goal has been cast, it is time to put faith into action. For, Paul reminded us that “faith without works is dead”. I’m certain that many have started working on their goals, whether intentionally or not. Let’s support and encourage them. This can be done by first praying for them and each goal they have set- asking that God bless their endeavors, allowing Him to be glorified as a result.

 

This Sunday as you join us in our “Promotion Sunday” celebration, take a moment to ask a few children and youth what they would like to achieve this year. Then, during your private prayer time, ask God to bless these endeavors and to allow His will to be manifested in their lives.

 

Our children and youth are very special gifts that God has entrusted to us. As a church body, remember them in your prayers and speak encouraging words in love. Whether you realize it or not, small acts of kindness and expressions of caring can mean a lot!

 

So, again I challenge you- find a child this Sunday and find out what he or she is interested in achieving this year. Then, check-in with them every few weeks to see how it is going. You never know, that just might be the extra push a person needs to stick with it and press towards their goals!

Agency D3 – Another Successful Class of Special Agent Recruits

This past week we presented our evening VBS with the return of Agency D3.  Condensed into a 4-day fact-finding mission, our special agents continued to discover, decide and defend evidence about Jesus.  What did you miss?

 

Preschool Children
Day 1 Is Jesus Really God’s Son?

 

Bible Story: Jesus is God’s Son (Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:29-36)

Is Jesus Really God’s Son?

 

Bible Story: An Eyewitness Report (Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:29-36)

 

The evidence proves that Jesus is God’s son.

Day 2 Was Jesus More Than Just a Good Man?

 

Bible Story: Jesus is Not Like Anyone Else (Mark 6:30-56)

Was Jesus More Than Just a Good Man?

 

Bible Story: Background Check (Mark 6:1-6, 30-56)

 

The evidence proves that Jesus was more than a good man.

Day 3 Did God Have a Plan for Jesus?

 

Bible Story: God’s Plan for Jesus (Mark 14:12-28; John 3:19)

Was Jesus’ Death Real?

 

Bible Story: Death Confirmed (Mark 14:12-22, 15:22-47)

 

The evidence proves that Jesus’ death was real.

Day 4

 

Is Jesus Alive?

 

Bible Story: The Disciples Saw Jesus (Luke 24:1-12, 36-48)

 

Can I Tell What I Know About Jesus?

 

Bible Story: Peter Told About Jesus (Acts 2:14-42)

Is Jesus Alive?

 

Bible Story: Physical Proof (Luke 24:1-48)

 

The evidence proves that Jesus is alive.

 

What do I Do with the Evidence About Jesus?

 

Bible Story: Summing Up the Evidence (Acts 2:14-42; 1 Peter 3:15)

 

Use the evidence about Jesus to defend your faith.

 

Our youth and adults explored the same content while exploring the historical context and contemporary application.  Thank you to all of our Field Agents (teachers) that did a phenomenal job in making this a special experience for all involved!