This really is the story of our lives, isn’t it? Even when we think we have everything figured out, we really have no idea what plans God’s got up His sleeves. Only He knows the plans He has for each of us, the path we are to follow, the twists and turns that lie ahead.
Last week I was visiting one of my good friends from college for the weekend. Before heading out to do some sightseeing, a book caught my eye. I grabbed it, and seeing that it was a daily devotional, I turned to that day’s devotion. For that day, the focus was being open to the unexpected and yielding to God’s will. A very straightforward message, reminding me that although I may make plans, they are subject to change- without prior notice, without my consent and in spite of my preferences. I can meticulously determine every step from start to finish, but ultimately God has the final say. The message ended up being timely, as that very day our plans were completely altered and all we could do was go with the flow.
This reminder is following me through the week. Right now I’m attempting to process a new dimension of the message that God is trying to deliver. It’s not about my plans versus His right now. For, there’s a specific concern that I have that has no real plan associated with it. But what is causing the discomfort is the fact that all of it is unknown to me. This is something I’ve never experienced, at least not to this degree. And that makes me uneasy.
Our motto for this year’s VBS is “Unknown to us. Known to Him.” As I think about it, that’s more than just a catchy line to facilitate a call and response with the children during our daily worship rallies. It really sums up what our faith walk is all about. The key verse, Isaiah 30:21 declares, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’.’’ This word, I feel it whispered in my ear as I find myself surveying and evaluating the road ahead. Interesting, this word whispered in my ear, isn’t a word that suggests that everything will work out according to how I imagine it should. No, the word doesn’t tell me to do things my way. Just plain and simple- “This is the way I have determined you will go. Krystal, you may continue.”
Then it comes. Peace replaces the nervous feeling. For, I know that voice. It is the voice that has led me so many times before through blinding storms, winding paths and uncharted territory. That voice belongs to the One that holds me safely in the palm of His hand. Those words, enveloped in love, booming with confidence and sprinkled with promise, belong to my Sovereign Lord. Although I have no idea where this path leads, I will boldly walk in it. For, it is known to Him! If my past has taught me anything, it is that although sometimes rough, the way that He has established leads to a new manifestation of promised blessings and deeper revelations of His very nature and glory.
As parents, I’m sure there are a multitude of things that cause discomfort, worry and/or angst. I encourage you to abandon the doubt and cling to the hope that you have in Jesus. Our guide is sure and His way perfect. Boldly walk in the way that He has established for you and your family.
Nerd may be too strong of a term. I prefer intellectual as the word to describe my hunger for knowledge, desire to learn new things and the sheer excitement that comes from gaining new insights. I fault my parents, Jon and Nancy, for me being this way. They modeled this behavior and guess what – it stuck! Perhaps it’s the mantra that they learned at Mims High School, where they both graduated in 1966 and consistently drilled into my head growing up, “Good, Better, Best. Never let it rest. Until Good is Better and Better is Best.”
I remember as a child when they’d reverently repeat this affirmation. I can imagine that my 2 sisters and I were discretely rolling our eyes and trying to muffle our giggles, as they relayed a very important truth that took me years to appreciate. Yes, I believe those simple words, repeated often enough, helped fuel what is now an unquenchable desire to be a lifelong learner.
That brings us to why I’ve spent the last 2 hours completing a take-home exam. As part of my professional development, I am currently enrolled in “How to Study the Bible” at First Baptist Church of Glenarden. All I can say about this course is “Wow!” The intellectual side of me is excited. For, the main focus of the class is ensuring that participants become skilled in using various reference resources and study aids to better understand the Bible. Who would have thought cross-referencing terms, scriptures and biblical themes could be so much fun! Okay, I embrace that my nerd status may have reached a new height now. But I guess I should just embrace it, because I’m loving every minute of it.
At any rate, as I worked on this week’s assignment, I came across something that piqued my interest. The task was to look up the word martyr in our Strong’s Concordance, then Vine’s Expository Dictionary, followed by noting what is documented in Unger’s Bible Dictionary. It is what I found in Vine’s that has prompted tonight’s reflection.
A quick step back – if someone were to ask me to give a working definition of the word martyr, just off the top of my head, I may say something like “a person who sacrifices their life for something they believe in; dying for a cause or belief.” Webster’s New World Dictionary defines it as:
a. any of those persons who choose to suffer or die rather than give up their faith or principles; b) any person tortured or killed because of their faith or principles
a person who suffers great pain or misery for a long time
a person who assumes an attitude of self-sacrifice or suffering in order to arouse feelings of pity, guilt, etc. in others
Thanks Webster! But of course, every good Bible scholar knows you can’t rely on the English dictionary nor should you start there to understand how terms are used in the Bible. Therefore, let’s see what Vine’s has to say:
For MARTYRsee WITNESS
(Pregnant pause…relook the entry…audible “hmmm”…flip pages to the word WITNESS)
Yes, that’s exactly how it happened. Maybe not that major to you, but honestly, that caught me off guard. I was expecting to see some variation of my definition or something closely mirroring Webster’s. But that’s not the case. Scratching my head, I delved deeper. The Greek word martus or martur means one who bears “witness” by his death. Specifically, when referencing Acts 22:20, “And when the blood of thy martyrStephen was shed…”, it refers to those who “witness” for Christ by their death.
This causes me to reflect a bit more about the true meaning of martyr. In general, it means “witness.” A person who maintains a deep, unshaken faith, to their core. So much so, that their belief is evidenced in their willingness to die for it. Stephen was stoned to death because of his resolute faith in Jesus. Unto death, he maintained his faith and through death was a witness for Jesus and a conduit for furthering the spread of the Gospel.
Witnesses For Christ, Unto Death
As Christians, we are called to be witnesses for Christ. Our actions, words and thoughts should all correspond with being a credible witness for our Lord and Savior. In order to be a credible witness, it requires that our lives consistently align with and submit to the will of God. I’d even be so bold as to suggest that it means witnessing for Christ through our death.
Let me take the time to unpack that statement to ensure there’s no misconceptions here. I am not suggesting a physical death. Although our faith should be so solid that if it ever came to it, we’d be able to boldly proclaim that we are Christians no matter the costs. But, I’m talking about something more immediate, spiritual and definitely a command from God. If our lives are our witness for Christ, shouldn’t they be submitted to Him? A spiritual death to self, ushering in God’s free reign in our life?
Let me be clear and transparent – submission is something that I avoided for years. It has only been during the last 5 years or so that I’ve deliberately sought God’s guidance in growing in this area. What I’ve found is truth in the words Jesus proclaimed in Luke 9:23 “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny (or die) themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’”
To further clarify the point, that the only way to be a true witness is through a spiritual death, Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Just as Christ died so that we may have life, we are to die to sin, die to self and allow His Spirit to dwell in us. Through this indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His empowering and enabling grace, our new life will bear the witness that God requires.
As much as this is a reminder and daily undertaking for me, I hope this is an encouragement and maybe even a challenge to you – be a martyr for Christ. Be intentional in the daily submission to His will and fully surrender your life to Him. By dying to self, you life for Christ and your faith will be evidenced in your life. What an awesome witness that can be – a valuable tool in leading others to salvation!
Unfortunately, I don’t do too well at picking up social cues. Sometimes it’s hard for me to take a hint. Although I am analytical and reflective, socially I can be a bit clueless at times. So, that’s exactly how I feel at this moment. I feel as though something that I should have known, been aware of and fully internalized weeks ago is just now finally hitting home.
On February 15th I shared a sermon, “Our Response to the Greatest Love There Is”. It was Valentine’s Weekend and I was feeling giddy and full, swirling in the whirlwind of love. Sentiments of love were popping out my pores and I was ready and willing to share with anyone that would listen what an awesome God we serve and how He deserves no less than our very lives. In fact, I talked about how we can react to His undying, unyielding, unfailing and undeserved love (1. Accept His gift of salvation, 2. Love Him through a lifestyle of worship, and 3. Love others with His love).
But, it’s funny how quickly a great sermon gets filed away and we get side-tracked by the demands of our daily lives, the desires of our flesh and the disillusionment produced from current situations. To an extent, that is what has happened to me. I deposited the word that God had given me and assumed that I was done. That from there, God would work on individual hearts to convict, compel or captivate as He saw fit. So yes, I left it all on the altar so He could do the work. Little did I know, that work would be done on me.
To be clear, for the past month, I have heard the question being flipped back on me. With the announcement of our 21-day corporate fast, “Krystal, what is your response?” Enjoying an evening of painting with a wonderful friend, “What are you doing with my love?” Then tonight, “Do you seek to please me?”
Each inquiry made me think. But tonight’s actually prompted me to some level of action. It was earlier this evening that I was reminded of the 4th verse in Psalm 37, that is sometimes taken out of context, “He will give you the desires of your heart.” This is good news, right! The Lord will bless me. He loves me and will provide for me and my wants.
Yes, I am guilty of it. I loudly boast the “b” clause but sometimes forget the first part- “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” As a matter of fact, let’s back up a bit and look at the verse before and the verse after,
3Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.…
Darn! It’s not true that God is my personal genie and whatever I want He will gladly blink it into existence? There’s some level of responsibility on my part? Oh yes. There’s an “if…then” relationship going on here. For, it says that IF I:
Trust in the Lord (implies obedience, faithfulness, submission)
Do not what I want but what He has defined as “good” – for my flesh often doesn’t desire to do good
Abide in the place where He has set me (Lord, am I still here? Single, Child-less, fill-in-the-blank for yourself)
Grow in the areas that He has called me to wholeheartedly serve in
All leading to delighting in Him…
THEN, He will give me the desires of my heart.
I believe the entire “if” clause embodies what it means to love God and maintain a lifestyle of worship. It means disciplining my self to the point in which what He has asked and requires of a relationship with me is second-nature, becomes who I am and what I do. In fact, it means letting go of my agenda and fully committing my life into His hands.
I feel like I do this. There are periods where I am on fire and seem to get it right. But then those periods of willfulness come in and I don’t quite hit the mark. What happens? I’m reminded of the fact that doing good isn’t a passive undertaking. To the contrary, it requires hard work (sounds like something I’ve said before, huh). It means daily dying to the flesh, which is easier said than done. The only effective way of daily dying is by counteracting my natural inclination towards sin with a daily abiding in Jesus. For, immersion into His word, communing with the Father and being strengthened by the Holy Spirit is the only way that I will be able to stand. But too many times I forfeit the opportunity of “delighting” myself in Him and trade in quality time with the Father for the momentary pleasures of this world (in this case binge watching Hulu, chatting on the phone, numbing my taste buds with unhealthy food).
This takes me back to the question that God threw out at me tonight, “Do you seek to please me?” Unfortunately the answer is not always “yes”. In fact, too many times the answer is “no”. This brings to mind something else from tonight. I left my evening class just so tired. All I could think about was my bed. I was having an internal struggle because I knew the commitment to spend quality time with God each night during this corporate fast was going to go unfilled. Although not materialized into an intelligible thought, there was a desire to somehow get the strength to spend that time with Him. But how? I was just so tired.
But, isn’t that how He works! He gives you strength and a yearning to do what your body doesn’t feel up to. Like writing this blog post right now (which isn’t a quick 5 minute task). So, I came home and decided I’d read a few pages in the book I’ve avoided for the last year “Sassy, Single, & Satisfied” (the journey I’m taking as I read that book is best saved for a later date- lol). But that’s where tonight’s question came from. The last page was talking about being a lover that aims to please- me loving God so much and showing it in very real ways that He can’t help but be moved by. Thus, taking me back to the passage in Psalms- how to be an awesome lover.
It is not enough to say that I can’t love Him fully and completely in my own strength. For at times I say that but don’t pair with it the intentionality of pressing into His presence, exposing my vulnerabilities and inadequacies and explicitly pleading for His grace to empower me in those areas where the frailty of my human existence outweighs my desire to do right by Him.
So, this too is a lesson for me. In order to love Him in the way that He wants, needs and requires me to love Him I need to boldly ask Him to help me, teach me, mold me so my love is pleasing to Him, brings Him joy and glorifies His name. Yes, this is what my response to the greatest love there is needs to be- daily delighting in Him and loving Him passionately, by the power of His grace.
Hopefully the transparency of my late night reflection triggers something for you. Feel free to share, as it may encourage others.
On Sunday, November 23rd I delivered my first sermon at Downtown Baptist Church. Below you’ll find the text of the message. Once you’ve read it, let me know what piece you can contribute in helping us be a “Deuteronomy 6 Church”.
This message is meant to expose you to the vision that I have for our Children’s Ministry, as the Children’s Director, and also start the conversation about “what is the missing piece”. Now, before I get too far into this let me clear up any misconceptions. This message isn’t just for parents. Nor only for those that currently serve in the Children’s Ministry. It’s not just for DBC members. It is for all of us. I pray that the message will resonate with each person here in some way. Next, when you hear me say “our” children that is exactly what I mean, ours. I have not birth any children. None. But I feel like I have numerous children, from my 5 years of teaching, mentoring and of course our children here at DBC. Those are my babies. I pour into them and am invested in seeing them succeed. As members of this faith community, the children that come to DBC are ours. We must nurture and cherish them accordingly.
In our current time of transition, we are making a number of adjustments and enhancements in the Children’s Ministry. We’re also experiencing some challenges. We’ve taken a big hit with the transition of many of our active families selecting to worship with other congregations. Yet, as a result, we have some awesome members that have stepped up, willing to serve in critical need areas. Our attendance has dipped. But with that I’ve challenged our volunteers to make the necessary modifications while maintaining a focus on quality. The results thus far have been great- children are excited about the awesome learning experiences that are taking place and we are effectively utilizing our resources in ways that make sense for our current size. We are building a quality, scalable program, which will allow us to be well-positioned to handle the growth that I believe will come. I shared with our Sunday School teachers back in September that at this time in our churches live I believe God is calling us to lay a foundation of quality and excellence. Therefore, when He prospers us to grow, a quality program will be awaiting our new members. In order to fully do that, we need to find some of our missing pieces.
I believe at this point in the life of our church, we are being called to be a Deuteronomy 6 Church. What is a Deuteronomy 6 Church? I’m glad you asked. Let’s turn to our text for today (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).
1 “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey. ’ 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
I. Begin with the end in mind.
Renowned leadership guru Stephen Covey suggested in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to always begin with the end in mind. Whether in education, business or any other field, good planners know to start with the end in mind. If you’re an educator, you’ve defined what success looks like for your students. For example: In many schools, as early as elementary grades you can see and hear indications of the end manifested in the posting of each classes graduation year. Also, displayed in statements such as “students will graduate prepared and inspired to thrive in college, career and community”. As a business, you establish your vision: be a best-in-class small business providing innovative and cost-effective solutions for our customers.
And in churches? What IS our end goal for our children? When our children are young adults in their twenties, who will they be? What characteristics will they possess? The very real danger that many churches, communities of faith and even some parents flirt with is the fact that they haven’t clearly defined it. And if you haven’t defined it, how will you know you’ve hit the mark? Worst yet, if no target has been defined, almost anything can be considered success and presumably any old path can get you there. As stated in Proverbs 29:18, “where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Let me suggest, we don’t have to guess at what success is for our children. God’s Word is very clear about what success is. For, we each have been given a great commission to “make disciples of men, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”. If that is our assignment then it is reasonable to deduce that our efforts in Christian education to children should produce adults that are disciples of Christ, individuals that have accepted the gift of salvation from God, through Jesus Christ, and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.
Furthermore, the indicator that these individuals are truly disciples is addressed in John 13:34-35, 34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Wow, that’s a powerful indication- all will know an individual is a disciple of Christ through the love he or she consistently has for others. This draws me back to Deuteronomy 6. In the 5th verse we are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” So, with every fiber of your being love God, through obedience, through worship, by surrendering your will to His, by fostering a rich relationship with Him. And in so doing, the fruit of your love for God will begin to naturally translate to loving one another.
Target defined. Indicator set.
II. What is the pathway?
Now that we’ve defined what the end is, how do we get there? What is the appropriate pathway to take to reach the goal? Again, God’s word is super clear on this question. John 14:6 states, and this is Jesus talking, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the one and only way. But, how do we get and keep children on the pathway? By being a “Deuteronomy 6 Church”. Deuteronomy 6:7-9 can provide some help in answering this question.
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
We are commanded to diligently teach our children the commands of God. As you would assume, diligently denotes that it is a consistent, regular teaching, repeatedly done to build a deep knowledge and understanding. A teaching with passion and urgency. I love how the passage doesn’t just stop there. Because if it did, it may lead one to believe that weekly Sunday School and worship service is enough for our children to develop into the Christ disciples we’ve identified as our end goal. No, that is not enough. We are to “talk of them when [we] sit in [our] house, when [we] walk by the way, when [we] lie down, and when [we] rise up”. That covers a lot of ground! Because Christian living doesn’t turn off Monday-Saturday, our efforts in developing dynamic disciples for Christ cannot exist within a Sunday, 9:30am-12pm window.
You know, that’s actually something our children are beginning to realize. Over the summer when we did our 6-week study of the fruit of the spirit, each week the children were assigned challenges that allowed them to apply and live out each virtue at home and in their communities. This is a learning tool that we also use with our Wednesday night program “Living Inside Out”. The weekly challenges allow the children to connect biblical principles to everyday situations, with activities that encourage family involvement and provide context for successfully living out their faith 24/7.
God’s word is a rich blueprint for godly living. It illuminates how to successfully navigate the challenges of the world and to be overcomers of sin to live victoriously through the grace that comes to us through the Holy Spirit. Also, contained within it are numerous promises that God has made to all believers. In verses 8 and 9 of Deuteronomy 6, we are reminded to keep the Word close, allowing it to be a guide for our lives but also explicitly bringing it into focus for our children- making it visible, accessible and prominent in our churches, homes, schools and communities. In so doing, we have an awesome opportunity to show our faith lived out in very practical ways.
If we take an honest look at our pathway, are we able to say that we are making it clear for our children? Of course, we’ve established that Jesus is the pathway. But I submit that not until we make the Word practical and applicable to the context of their lives, will Jesus be made explicitly clear with no missing pieces on the pathway. As on any pathway, there are makers and guideposts that help travelers navigate their paths. What would happen if we strategically and diligently act as these guideposts, providing tools and experiences at just the right time, that build Christian values and competencies that can have eternal impact?
Over the summer, one of our Family Fun Nights was a Fruit of the Spirit Scavenger Hunt here in Old Town. Children, youth, parents and grandparents joined the fun by identifying the fruits in action in our community. Here you can see a few pictures of what they found.
Ron (our youth director) and I planned this collaboratively but it was definitely God at work on that day. We developed “fruit in action” cards for the group to give to individuals that they saw displaying the virtue. This not only cemented for our children and youth the applicability of scripture in an everyday context, it also provided them an opportunity to witness to others in an authentic way by sharing the objective of the scavenger hunt and in turn their faith.
What rounded this out as a “Deuteronomy 6 Church” experience was the fact that the adults supported the successful completion of the task. How? By being present, providing clarification when needed but more importantly encouragement of living and applying their faith. What a great opportunity to have the word come to life and share with others in a low-stakes environment. Imagine how bold all of our children can be for Christ with consistent chances to apply their learning and build their faith.
Additionally, in this and all other activities that the children and youth do, your presence makes a difference. Let this go on record right now, anytime the children or youth ministries activities are in session, you are welcome to come! It is so important that our children build relationships and experience life with individuals of all ages. There is so much we can gain from each other.
Please hear me clearly, not everyone needs to lead a Sunday School class or assemble a choir (although some are well equipped to do so). But each of us are uniquely suited for some level of involvement in the lives of our children, whether directly or indirectly. The key is finding the right place to plug-in.
My family and I are avid supporters of breast cancer awareness. This is directly related to the fact that my mother died of breast cancer 9 ½ years ago. One bold way that we show our support is by participating in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk, where you walk 60 miles over the course of 3 days. As you may imagine, this is no small feat. It takes training, drive and courage. Although many train months for the event, the true test comes when you walk the course. The first day starts with an opening ceremony, which gets you pumped for the journey ahead. Often, family, friends and other breast cancer supporters attend this public event to celebrate the decision we’ve made to participate in what others might consider crazy, unnecessary or simply a waste of time. But, as we embark on this journey, they are there cheering us on as we take our first steps. The first few miles are doable, you’re still excited about the decision you’ve made and clearly remember why you joined the race.
Along the route you’ll find event staff- specifically oddly dressed crossing guards whose one goal is to make sure you cross safely. No other agenda, just want to ensure you remain safe and on the right course. Their motivations for assisting are varied- perhaps a loved one died of breast cancer and they feel an inner desire to support the cause anyway they can. A few are survivors. They understand the challenges of the journey but know the joy of overcoming and want to help you do the same. Also on the route, are pit stops. This is where we fill up, regain nutrients and for those that aren’t so lucky, have our blisters tended to by First Aid. Here there’s temporary solace, a time to relax and share some light-hearted conversation. Once reenergized, it’s back to the route.
There are signs along the streets, strategically placed by volunteers who have previously walked the path. They alert walkers to various dangers along the way- narrow sidewalks, construction zones, winding paths. There are also alerts for how much farther a pit stop, lunch or camp is. When the signs are few and far in between, you may see residents encouraging you, “Not much farther to the next stop. You can do it!” What relief comes over you when at the end of days 1 and 2 you see a sea of pink tents, signifying your home-away-from-home is waiting, bubbling with fun, complete with games, music, food and if you’re lucky, encouraging notes from loved ones.
Day 2 is the hardest, for it is the longest stretch of the walk, the novelty of porter potties and peanut butter and jelly snack bites have worn off, along with some of the traction of your sneakers. Knowing this, the event staff have taken extra care in positioning pit stops and cheering stations at some of the most challenging parts of the course.
But by Day 3, the end is in sight- there’s less than 20 miles left to go! Your burdens somehow feel lighter and the cheering from supporters seems to get louder. And although our feet ache more than we’ve ever experienced before, we continue because others on the route offer encouragement and refuse to leave even one of their fellow walkers behind. Then, one by one, we reach the finish line, where loved ones and so many people we’ve never met before are awaiting our arrival. Whether first or last, it doesn’t matter, because you’ve finished and there is a reward that awaits you.
The experience that I described is similar in nature to the Christian walk each of us takes. In the case of our children, when they begin on the pathway, the excitement is high. But, as we well know, it doesn’t take long for life to get rough. Dangers come from all directions. What if there is no one to help guide them safely across? What about those times that they need just a bit of rest or rejuvenation, who is providing for these needs, whether physical, emotional or spiritual? I suggest, just like in the walk, whether directly or indirectly, there are so many vital roles to fill and if even one piece is missing, the pathway becomes less clear and perhaps even harder to stay on.
III. So, what is the missing piece?
That brings me to my final point. What is missing here at DBC to make the pathway, that is Jesus, clear to our children? I don’t have the answer to this one. But I know someone who does! I challenge you to reflect more deeply about this during your daily quiet time with God and seek His guidance in this area. Be forewarned, what He reveals may very well be something you will be able to directly address. But, I guarantee if you earnestly seek Him, He’ll have an answer.
Here is a blank puzzle piece. This represents the missing piece on our pathway to developing disciples that have an unquenchable love for God and others. Perhaps the missing piece is direct contact with children, such as serving as helping with Children’s Church during the 11 o’clock hour. Or, it could be indirectly, such as serving as a parent mentor. It may deal with security, such as monitoring hallways during a service, or it could be adding the specific needs of our children to your personal or small group prayer lists. It could be continuing to serve where you are but with a fresh perspective, renewed energy and zeal. It may also mean transitioning to a new role that corresponds with the phase of life you are currently in. It could be taking a leap of faith and plugging into Children’s Ministry for the first time. Ever. I believe that God will honor our diligence in seeking Him and reveal or affirm how each of us can use our piece to make the pathway clearer.
Whatever you discern the missing piece to be, whether seemingly big or small, it is all important. It’s like a puzzle, you cannot enjoy the beauty of the picture when a piece is missing. No, each piece matters. Thinking about ourpathway, can you imagine what can happen if there’s a hole? The end goal- the salvation of our children, is too important to allow these gaps to exist and go unfilled. So, I challenge you today, seek God’s guidance and then write down what you can do to help us truly be a Deuteronomy 6 Church. Then, come see me so we can work together in filling the hole with yourmissing piece.
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.
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!
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!