Pray for SojournKids

Sojourn Church has recently entered into a 40-day season of prayer. Please come to the 930 this Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM to pray during our Sojourn Prayer gathering.  This is a time of change and transition for Sojourn in general as well as our student and family ministries in particular.  Whether you can join us or not, please be in prayer for the following items:

  • Pray for protection, clarity and unity amongst Sojourn’s leaders—particularly in regard to the future of our ministries for families.
  • Pray that our vision will flow from the Bible and not from our ambitions, experience, or human wisdom.
  • Pray for clarity, discipline, and energy for those preparing to teach parenting classes in the Fall.
  • Pray for unity, creativity, and energy for those working on children’s book projects.  Pray for the new book What Is The Church? as it reaches the final stages of production.
  • Pray for servants to join our children’s ministry, student ministry and Vacation Bible School teams.
  • Pray for the nursery ministry as a team prepares to implement a new curriculum in the Fall.
  • Pray for the children, students and parents that hear the gospel through these ministries.  Pray for conviction, repentance, and living faith.

Memory Monday (06/28/09)

3.  Why did God make you and all things?  For his own glory.
(Psalm 19:1; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; Revelation 4:11,15)
Explanation: God’s glory is his goodness and his greatness

4. How can you glorify God?  By loving him and doing what he commands.
(Ecclesiastes 12:13; Mark 12:29-31; John 15:8-10; 1 Corinthians 10:31)

(From A Catechism for Girls and Boys)

What is “Memory Monday”? Each week I’ll post Scripture and/or Bible doctrine memory work from the previous Sunday’s children’s Bible lessons. Here is the challenge! Learn the memory work together as a family. Then, kids, come to our Sunday gatherings next week and recite the memory work to Mrs. Kelsey Barnes (St. Matthews campus), Mr. David Kidd (Germantown campus) or me to receive a reward.

Evangelism without Manipulation

I’ve run into some fascinating posts over the past week regarding child evangelism.  The catalyst for my thoughts was Henry Zonio’s post Evangelism as Child Abuse?  Can a Wrong Presentation of the Gospel Be Harmful to Children?  He points to several other blog posts and books that have been helpful for him in understanding matters related to child evangelism.  Henry’s conclusion is fantastic:

Is it child abuse when we aren’t careful about how we lead children to Christ? I don’t know. I can understand those who claim that it is. Even Christ warns us about the dangers of leading a child astray, and I think that even applies to giving a child a false idea of what it means to follow Christ.

So what does that mean for evangelistic presentations to children?  The key… is to help connect children and families to Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to do the work of conversion. It’s more than just praying a prayer, raising a hand or coming to the altar. It’s about life transformation, and that is something that can’t be manufactured or manipulated into existence.

The best article that Henry links to is by Michael Spencer (InternetMonk).  The article is entitled,  “Question: Is Evangelism Child Abuse?”  Someone had brought up the issue that proselytizing anyone under 18 is manipulative and tantamount to child abuse. In response, Spencer offers gospel-centered thoughts about evangelism and how he approaches it:

When I deal with students, I am straight up about evangelism. If they take my class, I will occasionally explain the Gospel to them. I stress that their beliefs are welcome to be shared as well. I use no decisional tactics and I have no personal interest as a teacher in what a student does with the claims of Christ. I pray for these students, and would find it impossible to pray for them without praying that they come to know Christ.

I am just as honest about preaching. I give full permission to ignore or reject whatever I say, but I am straightforward that my calling and vocation is to proclaim, explain and apply the Gospel. I use no altar call. I use no tactics or manipulations of any kind. It’s the Gospel, an appeal to believe, a prayer and I leave it with them and the Holy Spirit.

I tell my students that I am completely open to being evangelized by them. I invite questions and I ask questions. Because I am in a Christian school with a missions focus, I have many non-Christians in my Bible classes and preaching services. We have dialog constantly. It’s a natural outgrowth of the diversity of our school.

These are fantastic words of encouragement, and I look forward to posting more on the resources I’ve been reading as a result of Henry’s post a little later this week.

Growing Kids in Grace | Pat Aldridge

The following is a great little article from my friend Pat Aldridge, who serve Redeemer Church in St. Charles, IL.  Can’t find a word here I disagree with:

Since coming back from the Children Desiring God conference, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about helping kids develop a passion for God and His Gospel. Mostly “how-to” type stuff. The books I have been reading all start by making two things very clear: 1) The importance of family devotions, and 2) The importance of personal growth. I want to explore these issues in reverse order.

Personal Devotions

The reason I want to start with personal devotions is because apart from them, family devotions won’t have as much, if any, impact on our kids. Our kids need to SEE us spending time reading our Bibles, praying, and handling life in a godly way. They need to SEE grace in action. Whether you understand it or not, parents have the most influence over their children. Two things to keep in mind about that: 1) parents are the people that spent the most time with their children, and 2) kids are like sponges – they absorb a lot from those they spend the most time with. What are we teaching our kids about the value of God, that it’s a private thing not to be disturbed, or that it is in the things of everyday life?

Another reason I start with personal devotions is that you as the parent/teacher need be growing in the graces and mercies of God. If we as the parents/teachers are growing ourselves our teaching will be more mechanical (”going through the motions”) and less life transforming.

Finally, personal growth as a parent means at least one more thing; we need to let our kids SEE us deal with our sin, especially when that sin is against them. We are sinners, just like they are, and we need to deal with that sin openly and honestly if we expect them to do the same. They struggle with the same sins we do – selfishness, stubbornness… do I need to go on? The bottom line in all sin is pride. If our kids don’t see us deal with sin, they won’t understand its devastating power.

Family Devotions

I like to think of family devotions as a kind of “small group” for your family. Most churches have small groups and when they are done well, this is where a lot of spiritual maturity happens. It shouldn’t be different with our families. At this point I must confess that I (like I suspect most of you) struggle with making this a habit. Our current schedule (my wife and I work opposite shifts with just a little overlap) compounds the problem. What we are learning is important in all aspects of child rearing; be intentional. We need to use the time God gives us to the best of its ability. Something I’ve had to say to myself is, “Stop making excuses, and just do it!”

I know what you may be thinking at this point, “Now that I have decided to do it, what should I do?” Here are some great resources to start you down the family devotions road. I have decided to start with a booklet put out by Children Desiring God called Helping Children Understand the Gospel by Sally Michael, Jill Nelson, and Bud Burk. I choose to start here because the Gospel is foundational. If I get this wrong it doesn’t matter what else I teach, it could (and probably will) be corrupt. I want my kids to cherish the richness of the message of the Gospel. Once the foundation is set we are planning on moving on to Bruce Ware’s book Big Truths for Young Hearts. It’s a great devotional that breaks down theology and helps kids (and parents as well) understand (as much as we can this side of heaven) how big God really is. From there we will probably us one of the many Catchisms that are out there. One of the ones we have is the Truth and Grace Memory Bookby Thomas K. Ascol put out by Founders Press. There are a lot of good resourses out there, ask people you trust they can probably recommend more, these are the ones I have come in contact with and will work for me.

Conclusion

Keep the following things in mind:

1) As parents we have the PRIMARY responsibility to raise our children in the ways of God. It’s not the church’s job to see that our kids get God. We spend the most amount of time with our kids and they learn a lot from watching what we do, say, and how we handle life.

2) Help your kids see God in the mundane, everyday situations of life.

3) Let your kids see you deal with sin. Don’t hide it or rationalize it away. Deal with it. This will teach your kids volumes about how dangerous sin is.

4) If you need help, ask. It doesn’t matter what stage you or your kids are at, start working to deepen their faith (yours will be deepened in the process).

5) Be intentional. We don’t know how much time we have so use it wisely.

6) Always have the heart in mind. Work on the heart not the behavior.

What are you reading or learning on this topic? Please share.

via Growing Kids in Grace | Redeemer’s Voice.

What Is the Chuch? A new Sojourn children’s book tackles this difficult question.

Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post that got me a little excited.  Dr. Ray Van Neste, of whom I am a big fan, reviewed a simple little book from Concordia Publishing aimed at young children to encourage their engagement in the worship of the church and explaining key parts of the Lutheran worship service.  In the book, comment is made on  prayer, congregational singing, Bible reading, preaching, communion, baptism, and giving.  Van Neste noted, “In a day when the church is so often minimized or disparaged, it is great to see a children’s book like this… I would like to see my own denominational publisher produce something similar in a Baptist vein.”

Well, I’m pleased to announce that a similar book is in the final stages of production here at Sojourn.  Mandy Groce and Bill Bell (with illustrations by Tessa Janes) have been working on a new book  for our kids that asks the difficult question What is a Church? Here are some of the opening lines:what is the church_right

Let’s say you ask me, “What’s the church?”
I’d say, “Not what, but WHO!”
The church is made of people just
Like me and just like you.

The church is not a place we go
To meet on special days.
It’s us—it’s he and she and we—
Called out to bring Christ praise.

God’s church is built of human hearts—
Men, women, girls, and boys.
By faith we’re made God’s family
And that’s why we rejoice!

Unlike other books on the church, this book does not answer the question by telling what the church does (preaching, communion, baptism, discipline)–although those things are essential and should not be ignored.  But this book begins with who we are–our identities as a church.  As a gospel people, the church is a believing family, a community of worshipers, servants, learners, and missionaries.  Stay tuned for more as the project continues.