Is the idea of launching a special needs ministry intimidating to you? It’s actually simpler than you think, and you probably already have the tools you need.
Child development experts understand the value in repeating a concept. “The deepest aha's spring from an encounter and then a return. Repeating the encounter fuses it into one's awareness. One of the biggest mistakes a teacher can make is to forego the return or repetition.” – Robert F. Bruner, University of Virginia
For years and years our church used a well-known mid-week curriculum, which focused on kids memorizing lots of verses, and receiving little trinkets along the way. We believe wholeheartedly in kids memorizing scripture, so that was a definite strength of the program. We all learned and grew spiritually because of it.
If you work with kids, or have kids, or know kids, you are sure to come across a broken-hearted child: one who has a downcast spirit due to the actions of someone else. It might be after one (or more) of their peers has been cruel to them, or maybe it’s after someone talks behind their back. It might even be a foster child whose own mom or dad has broken the sacred trust of parenthood.
What are you investing in? Most of us spend the time (and money) for our kids' extra batting practice, swim lessons, and homework tutors. These things are great, but none of them are as valuable as time spent hiding God’s word in a tender young heart. Which of these activities will sustain them when a family member is diagnosed with a dreadful disease? Which will guide them when peers are pressuring them to do something they shouldn’t? Which will lead them toward a relationship with the all-knowing Creator of the cosmos who happens to be crazy in love with them?
Right now, if your children are young, you are with them quite a bit, giving them much needed guidance. But as your kids grow older, you cannot be with them every day. And you shouldn’t be! None of us want to be hovering, controlling parents. We should be raising our kids to be independent adults. However, if you invest the time now, God’s word WILL be with them. His word is living and active. And it’s always 100% perfect! None of us can say that about our own words. It is far better that they have God’s word in them than to have us next to them (John 16:7). And John 14:26 tells us that God’s Spirit will remind them of those very words they have hidden in their hearts. Let’s give the Spirit something to work with.
There is a young couple in our church that recently got married. When they began dating during their junior year of high school, they came up with goals for their relationship and agreed on certain behaviors that would help them meet those goals. They wanted to seek God first, to remain pure, to be a witness to others. This all came from these two 16 year old kids–not their parents. One of the behaviors that would help them with purity was never to be alone in a house together. If they weren’t hanging out with friends or family, they would stay out in public at a park, a restaurant, etc. If they were out together and wanted to go home to watch a movie or eat, they would call home to make sure someone was there so they wouldn’t be alone.
One day the young man called his mom to see if anyone was home because the two wanted to hang out there. His mom told him the family was out but they should be home in about 20 minutes. It was a precious sight to the young man’s parents to drive up to the house and find the young couple sitting on the front steps in full view of the neighbors because no one was home when they arrived. Let me reiterate, they made this choice–not their parents. By the age of 16, they had hidden God’s word in their hearts and they were led into righteous living by God’s Holy Spirit (Psalm 119:9).
As parents, we really want our kids to have the inward motivation. If you have to “voice-activate” all of your child’s behaviors, the next voice that comes along can have the same affect! Inward, Spirit-led motivation is what counts!
The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. – Psalm 37:31
Summer is upon us. It’s a great time to first review the verses your kids soaked in during the KidzLife season. Those seeds are planted and they might just need a light watering. (Easy tip: Play your Memory Verse CD while you take a road trip.) And then, find verses that hold a special meaning to your family and memorize them together. Set a realistic goal and make it fun.* Summer is footloose and fancy free in so many areas that are usually stressed and hurried. It’s a great time to be extra intentional in memorizing His word. You will never regret the time you spend on it.
* Write your verse in the sand every day on vacation, make up a song as you road trip, write it in sidewalk chalk, write each word on a separate piece of paper and do a scavenger hunt, etc.
Several years ago, when my son was about ten years old, ready to shake off the remainder of his 5th grade year and launch into middle school, we had some deep discussions about apologetics. The first convo started something like, “Mom, I know what the Bible says and all, but how do I know if it’s really true?” Fueled by our discussions at home, I asked my small group at church (comprised of 5th grade girls) to raise their hands if they had questions about how we know the Bible is really true. They looked at me for a moment. I assured them it was fine to be totally honest. Not just one or two hands went up. Every. Single. Hand.
I didn’t panic. Instead I was overwhelmed with gratitude that God had revealed it. I was so thankful that they were honest enough to share it. It gave us time to talk about it. In fact, our team immediately planned a weekend retreat for all of our 5th graders so we could dive headlong into their questioning. We invited an expert in apologetics who specializes in speaking to youth to explain how literature is dated and the various ways we can authenticate scripture from sources outside of the Bible. We allowed time for Q&A. It was a weekend well spent.
Pastor Tim Keller once said, “A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.”
Can we afford for our elementary kids to move into junior-high and high school without spiritual antibodies? Certainly not! That’s why we must give kids ample time to discuss their beliefs and even their doubts. As a parent, don't fear the doubt, and be sure not to dismiss it. Think of it as an opportunity to go deeper with your child. Consider working through books like Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ (student edition) with your child.
As a small group leader, welcome the opportunity for more discussion. We always say that small groups are “where the rubber meets the road.” It’s where kids have a voice; it’s where kids are not just allowed–but encouraged–to talk about what they think and what they believe. It’s where loving leaders can clear up misunderstandings and point them to the rock of God’s word. It’s in the discussion and the digging deeper that our kids (and all of us, really) grow the kind of faith that stands up to scrutiny and hardship down the road.
The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:2
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27
In His image. Three words we are so used to hearing, they may not really register anymore. Take a minute to let them soak in once again. Every person. Every single one is an image bearer of the King. Let’s do a quick rundown of who this includes:
- your spouse
- each member of your family
- the widow next door
- the homeless man downtown
- the wealthy Hollywood starlet
- the self-destructive addict
- the politician you adamantly disagree with
- the criminal on skid row
- the co-worker who drives you crazy
- the barista who crafted your morning blend
- and most certainly, every child that crosses your path
Yes, sin was invited in, so now each one has been distorted from its original design, but every one still bears His DNA (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9). Do we see people this way? Can we?
Are you ready for a beautiful, radical idea? Caesar Kalinowski, executive director at GCM Collective, says that he actively looks for the ways those around him display the image of God and he TELLS THEM. Can you imagine it? Instead of “Hey, I like the painting you did,” you might say, “I just love how creative you are. It reminds me of how God came up with all the amazing colors to paint the sunsets.” How simple is that? None of it is made up; all of it is true. But it redirects the glory from the person onto the Creator. And hearing a compliment framed in that way gives the person a sense of whose image they were formed in. This is especially beautiful for those who do not have a relationship with their Creator. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to plant a seed of the divine creation into those who errantly believe their existence is a random collision of stray molecules? And to do it with a compliment disarms as it educates. You can’t get a better plan than that. Let’s all keep our eyes peeled for the Imago Dei so we can intentionally draw attention to it today.