Is There Such a Thing as a Healthy Dose of Doubt?

Spiritual Antibodies: Is there a shot for that?

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

The Absolute Easiest Way to Touch Anyone With Truth

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   The Absolute Easiest Way to Touch Anyone With Truth

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:

  • you  
  • 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.


What to Do with that Situation You Can’t Seem to Get Over

What to Do with that Situation You Can't Seem to Get Over

Are you losing sleep over something? Maybe it’s something someone has said or done to hurt you, or a time when you were treated unfairly. Maybe it’s a mistake you made. Maybe it’s knowing you were excluded from something. Whatever it is, it gets under your skin, and although you try to move past it, it’s stealing your joy.

At the beginning of this year I set out to read the Bible in a year. So I found a chronological reading plan that looked doable. And there it was – in day one of my reading. How quickly God’s word jumped off the page with a very clear message for me. You see, I had been losing sleep over something. Something real. Something hurtful. Worse than hurtful to me, it was hurtful to my child. If I typed it out, your jaw would drop and you would completely agree with me. But no matter how “right” I was, the causer of the pain wasn’t losing sleep. I was. And my child was. Right there in Genesis 1-3, was the answer and it was an answer I needed to share with my child.

Genesis tells us that in the garden, God set two choices before Adam and Eve. They were free to eat from the tree of life (gen 3:22) or the tree that would cause them to die (gen 2:17). They chose death. How many delicious, nourishing options did they turn their backs on? Hundreds? Thousands? God had provided innumerable fruits that would sustain them (in addition to the tree of life), but they ate from the one tree that doomed them.

Instantly, I knew that’s what my child and I had been doing. We were choosing death. God has given us innumerable blessings but we were honed in on the one negative situation. I confessed. Lord, I know the "situation" is sucking life out of us. What options are you setting in front of us that we are ignoring? What should we do? Two words flooded my mind. CHOOSE LIFE.

The truth is, our habits often foster the pain: Replaying the conversation or situation over and over in our minds, dreaming of what we should have said, talking to a friend who is not steering us toward restorative behaviors, incessantly checking social media, entertaining vengeful thoughts, etc. Each of these behaviors is equivalent to nibbling on toxic fruit.

If you find yourself losing joy because of an emotionally painful situation, take it to the Lord. Confess any part that you may have played. Accept His forgiveness. Take all the Biblical steps you need to take (see Matt 18). Then–and this is important–ask God what you should stop doing that is fostering bitterness, and ask what you should be spending your time on which is good and life-giving. And when it applies to them, guide your child through each of these steps.

I shared this revelation with my child and now we have a two-word mantra to encourage each other whenever this or a similar situation comes up. CHOOSE LIFE!

“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards–for our vineyard is in bloom.” Song of Songs 2:15 (NET)

If this resonates with you, you'll be blessed by listening to “Good to Me” by Audrey Assad.

"How Do I Get More Volunteers?" May Be the Wrong Question

"How Do I Get More Volunteers?" May Be the Wrong Question

One of the top questions we hear from children’s directors is “How do I get more volunteers?” But a much better question may be: "How do I get the right volunteers?" Companies go through lengthy processes to be sure they’ve hired the right employee, and when they’re wrong, it costs them thousands of dollars. A bad recruit in children’s ministry is much more costly as it can cost the spiritual nurturing of a child

Parenting: What to Do When You Lose Your Cool

Parenting: What to Do When You Lose Your Cool

I used to be terrified that I was ruining my kids when I didn’t model the right Christ-like behavior. Many times, this came in the form of running short on patience or losing my cool with my very strong-willed child. Later I would agonize over what I said or did, and how I didn’t respond in grace.

Then this question came to me: If God only used perfect people to be parents, who would He use?

The answer is obvious. There are none. We all fall short (Romans 3:23). We will lose our temper, react in fear to a certain situation, or say an unkind word. And our kids will see it. There are just too many moments in a 24-hour day to respond to each one in just the right way.

Being perfect is not doable. So here’s what you can do: When you blow it, first take it to the Lord - confess and repent. Then go to your kids. Apologize and explain God’s truths to them. Even explain what you should have done. One time, I actually drove to my son’s school and pulled him out of class to apologize for my short-temper that morning. I trust that he will remember that apology much longer than the offense that caused it.

Sanctification is a lifelong process. You are a work in progress (Philippians 3:12). Being honest about this is a priceless gift to give your kids. And so is humility. Never let your pride stand in the way of forgiveness and reconciliation. That would be a victory for the enemy (James 3:14-15).

Let’s face it: your kids aren’t perfect either. One day, they will be the parent staring into the stubborn face of a toddler who refuses to get into his car seat! And that child of yours will have learned from your mistakes. They may handle it better, or they may simply have learned that God has grace for that. In the end, we are equipping our kids to be the best parents they can be when we are transparent in our successes–and failures–as a parent.

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – John 1:16-17

Confessions and Cleansing: Laying it All Out for Our Kids

Confessions and Cleansing: Laying it All Out for Our Kids

“When I was about your age I had a terrible habit…” These words are bound to catch the attention of any child.

It happened several weeks ago when I was an extra set of hands for a small group of 5th grade boys. The large group lesson taught that day was about Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. As usual, Jesus cut to the chase when He announced that this learned old man must be born again in order to reach the Father in heaven. So the small group lesson was all about the one way to reach God. As always, we use discussion questions to lead kids in small group. The leader asked something to the effect of, “How can we get to God?” Kids started calling out answers. One boy who was sitting at the edge of the group said in an earnest voice, “Go to church.” His pitch rose slightly at the end of his statement, making it a pseudo-question, when his eyes caught mine.

The leader was fielding several other answers and didn’t even hear this particular child. So I knew I wanted to address it. I called him aside for a minute. I affirmed his participation by saying that going to church is a great thing to do. But as far as getting to God, I had a story to tell him.

“When I was in elementary school, just about your age, I had a terrible habit. My brother (who was a few years old than me) had a really cool wallet. It had little plastic runners that were different sizes for the different sized coins. I was infatuated with the wallet, but even more so by the shiny coins inside it. Because, you know, there was stuff I wanted to buy! So, sometimes when my big brother wasn’t around, I would sneak in and take a few coins–not too many at once because I didn’t want him to become suspicious.” I looked into the big brown eyes of the fifth grade boy and asked, “Was that stealing? Was that a sin?”

“Yes!” on both counts.

“Absolutely it was. Now here’s the thing: I went to church almost every week. Did going to church take away the fact that I stole something?” With wide eyes, he shook his head no.

“And what if I became super rich and gave a million dollars to the poor? Would that take away the fact that I stole those coins from my brother?”


“You know, even if I paid back every penny to my brother, it wouldn’t change the fact that I chose to steal from him. So there I was with quarters in my hand, totally separated from God. The Bible says there’s nothing I can do to get rid of my own sin. I can’t undo what I’ve done! Doing good stuff won’t take away the bad. The only way for me to get to God was for Jesus to take my sin away on the cross. All I do is believe in the One who took it away. Then I am completely accepted by God.”

I believe that true (and embarrassing) illustration will probably stick with my young friend. The truth is, I have done far worse. But for him, it made an impression. When we keep it real with our kids, it has way more impact than when we talk in theory. Kids need real life examples–good and bad. Of course we keep it age appropriate, but we don’t shelter them from our wrong choices and our own path to God. Our faith is real so we are not afraid of the truth.

On a side note, as I lay in bed a few days later, God opened my eyes to a deeper reality. I was thinking back over this story and my days as a pint-sized pickpocket. I thought about the conversation with my young 5th grade friend that day and the truth I was trying to convey. I have said it, taught it, believed it: “The Lord laid on Him the sins of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). But suddenly an overwhelming reality struck me: It’s as if Jesus stole that change from my brother instead of me! The great exchange on the cross turned me into an innocent bystander! After all, Jesus is not confined by time or space. It’s more than just theory. Tears literally began streaming as I realized this truth applies to all of the things I have done. He took those sins onto Himself. Jesus was declared guilty at the excruciating moment that God turned His face away from His Son (Isaiah 59:2). Deep in His soul, Jesus felt it when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34) Never have I felt so clean, so pure. Jesus took it. He REALLY took it. I am pure as the driven snow. No, pure as the perfect Lamb. What a Savior we have!

As a teacher, I have to believe that God wants me to share what He reveals to me. So, a few weeks later, as soon as the opportunity arose, I stood in front of 70 elementary school kids and told the whole story again–this time with the deeper truth that when Jesus took my sin, it’s just as if He stole that money. With all my heart, I want these kids to “stand on the shoulders of giants.” I want them to learn at their tender young ages what God has taught me, so they can “inherit a double portion” in their own lives (2 Kings 2:9).

One Trick to Make Kids Stop and Listen

OneTrick to Make Kids Stop and Listen

You have a really important point to make to the group of kids you’re teaching. The truth you are about to share is a life-changer. You want to be sure the kids take hold of and remember these words. So how do you grab their attention and make your point stand out?

When you have something important to say... whisper. Doesn’t a whisper always catch your attention? When the Pharisees heard the masses whispering about Jesus, it sure caught their ear – and struck fear in their hearts (John 7:31-32).

Perhaps the most famous whisper of all is found in 1 Kings 19:11-13:

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

 The howling wind and rumbling earth were no match for the whisper of the Almighty. A whisper is out of the ordinary. And a whisper is exclusive: it is intended for a select few. There’s something imbedded in human nature that makes us intent on being included in what might be deemed a little bit exclusive.

Whispering to grab attention only works for a key phrase or sentence, not an entire lesson. But when you whisper a few words while teaching a room full of kids, they will lean in a bit closer to hear. This trick is not only effective, but it’s fun! Try it and watch every other distraction instantly cease as kids lock their eyes on you. For that moment, they are all ears. Then you can easily (quietly) drive your point home.

A Powerful Way to Help Build a Child's Faith

A Powerful Way to Help Build a Child's Faith

When a child asks you to pray for them, don’t wait. Whenever possible, pray right then and there. And if the child doesn’t mind, include some of their peers.

One of our small group leaders reported something pretty wonderful that occurred over the past few weeks:

“A few of my 4th and 5th grade girls have been sharing during prayer time about some specific bullying they have been experiencing. Some had experienced it themselves and one girl shared how she saw it happening on the playground to one particular child. We have prayed about these situations each week. When the next week comes, I always ask them if they have anything to share about how God has answered prayer. Last week, there came an amazing answer to prayer in ALL of those situations: God had taken charge of the bullying and it was stopped.”

As a group, these girls lifted up each situation, trusting that God knows all the ins-and-outs of each heart (including the bullies’) and that He could do something about it. And as He tends to do, God worked all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Not only did the girls’ situations improve, but even more importantly, their faith increased when they saw the Creator of the universe step into their personal situation and save the day. And to top it off, the wonder wasn’t confined to just the girls who had their needs met. Each girl in the group benefited. They had prayed together and now they had answers together. This calls to mind the close-knit community of the very first followers of Christ.

The believers studied what the apostles taught. They shared their lives together. They ate and prayed together. – Acts 2:42

That’s how we share our faith! Of course, we have to use discretion in knowing what can be shared aloud; we never want to embarrass a child. But with issues that are less confidential, or in the confines of a group that has grown close to one another, shared prayer time can be a huge faith-builder for all involved–including the leaders!

Bless the Child

How to Speak a Blessing over Your Kids

Someone once asked Michelangelo how he was able to craft the magnificent sculptures he chiseled out of stone. “In every block of marble I see a statue as though it stood before me, shaped and perfected in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

Somehow, in his mind’s eye - in his imagination - Michelangelo could see the completed statue before he ever touched the massive block of stone. In a way, he could picture the beautiful future of the stone. Then he would simply chisel away everything that wasn’t part of the image he envisioned, so that everyone else could see the figure the way he had pictured it. Michelangelo was certain his insightful imagination was a gift from God.

“Many believe - and I believe - that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him.”

A blessing is born out of a very similar process. A blessing is the ability to see into the future of a person, and picture the beautiful things God has in store for him or her. The children under your leadership might be rough on the outside. Maybe no one else can see the talents and qualities God has placed inside there. But you know the many promises God has proclaimed for them in His word. And you can ask God to show you His plan for each child.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. - Ephesians 2:10

Ask God to help you see every child this way (especially the ones you have trouble seeing this way right now). Then make a habit of praying blessings over the kids in your life. Speak the blessings out loud over them. It might feel a bit awkward at first, but it is ever so Biblical (from Genesis to Revelation) and kids will remember you as the one who always believed their future would be beautiful.

It might be something like: “Lord, I see the way Lucas’ peers look to him to get his opinion before they form theirs. I ask you to develop his leadership abilities and that he would always use his God-given influence to lead people to Jesus and works of justice.” Or: “Lord, I love watching Katie with her little brothers and sisters. Thank you for her nurturing heart. I ask you to expand your kingdom through the way she cares for people.”

Then continue to pray for God to bring the blessing to fruition! Ask God to strip away everything that hinders the divine transformation He has in mind. Set a goal to bless each one of your kids before this school year ends.

Kids Need Prodigal Leaders

Are You a Prodigal Leader?

If we ever wonder how God feels about His children, we need look no further than Luke 15.

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. – Luke 15:20

In your mind’s eye, can you picture this respected, gray-haired land owner stooping down to scoop up the ends of his robe so that he could run – RUN – to greet his son? One by one, the servants in the fields probably froze in place as the scene unfolded. This father set aside his dignity for the delight of his son. The good father owed his son nothing. But the good father couldn’t get to him fast enough.

And how did the son respond? We aren’t told in detail how the story ends, but we know the son is greatly humbled and we are left with the impression that the son would never stray again.

This is how Jesus described His Father. So how do we emulate these actions? The truth is, we have to be like God to act like God: not concerned about our dignity, not at all wrapped up in what’s best for me, not needing anything from those under our leadership. Ask God to fill any insecurity, so you are free to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1).

Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God–truly righteous and holy. - Ephesians 4:24

You are the one who will model this kind of love to the kids you lead. You are the one they will look forward to seeing when you lavish them with this kind of acceptance. Keenly hone in on the kids in front of you. Make the effort to seek them out in a crowded room. Squat down to converse with them. Take time to go to their ball games or dance recitals. Let them know they are treasured in spite of their actions (good or bad).

The story in Luke 15 is referred to as “The Prodigal Son.” But since the term prodigal is defined as spending resources extravagantly, it might be more accurate to call it “The Prodigal Father.” After all, he lavished his son with an extraordinary amount of love and grace. We can do the same. Kids will be eternally impacted when you scoop up your robe and run toward them. 

How to Help Kids with Disruptive Behavior

How to Help Kids with Disruptive Behavior

Years ago, comedian Mark Lowry told his story of growing up in a less-than-happy home. He was hyperactive and most adults did not know how to handle him. He was constantly in trouble at home and at school. He joked that his dad worked out a “two for one deal” with his teacher. When he got a paddling at school for misbehaving, he would get one at home as well! While Mark has many stories of the teachers who were endlessly frustrated with him, he recalled one teacher’s assistant who had a very different reaction. When Mark was fidgety or disruptive, this sweet older lady would take him for a walk. They would walk (or skip or jump or bounce) down the halls and talk. As Mark expelled his energy, the wise woman would manage clever ways to talk through the lesson that he was missing in the classroom. On a very serious note, the comedian would say that this woman changed his life. She was the first person who made him feel valued.  

Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ – Luke 15:3-6

Jesus told this story in the context of salvation, but it really reveals the heartbeat of His Father. Every individual is incredibly valuable to Him. Every single one matters.

So how do we mirror the heart of the Father? First, we agree that it is worth our time to go after every child. Especially the difficult ones. Shouldn’t church be the one place that they aren’t constantly in trouble? Shouldn’t church be the one place where they feel valued? Shouldn’t church be the place where we look deeply to find the wonderful traits God has knit into them and call those to the surface? This in no way implies permitting disruptive or disrespectful behavior! It just means that we need to go out of our way to find out what triggers the unwanted behavior, give grace for what we can, and let each child know how valuable he or she is to God.

Here's a good place to start:

1. Find a way to connect with the parent outside of church to see what’s going on at home and to work together to set the child up for success. And when you see success–no matter how small–go out of your way to share it with the child and the parent. Positive reinforcement is a strong motivator (and one word of encouragement to a parent of a high-needs child can be the fuel they need to get through an entire week.)

2. Small Group leaders, talk to your co-leader and leadership team if you have one. They may see something you are missing, or may have experience with the child that can give you insight. Everyone should be on board with the plan you put in place.

3. Oftentimes the “one” will need individual attention. Find a volunteer who can be your go-to person when a child needs some space and grace. This will be a person with an abundance of patience who will take the child out of the group and pour into him or her individually. (Remember, an adult and child should never be alone in a secluded place. This one-on-one time should be done in an open, very visible space.) It may seem overwhelming to find yet another volunteer, but ask God and He will provide. There might be a gifted adult who loves a challenge, or one who prefers one-on-one discipleship. It might even be someone who was once this type of child. You never know how God will meet the need! 

Of course, throughout the process, pray. Pray that these kids reject any lies that they have heard about who they are. And pray they believe the truth that they are the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8), uniquely knit together to know Him, love Him and praise Him.

A Word to the Workers

A Word to the Workers

It’s the end of a long day. Your to-do list at work (or home) didn’t seem to get any shorter today, as more emails came in and more requests were made of you. Almost nothing got scratched off. And tomorrow has it’s own list. You certainly could use a night to catch up on all the “urgent” things you need to do. But instead, you’ll spend a night investing in kids–kids that you did not birth, but kids that God has clearly set in your path.

You’ll bend down to listen to them, because that’s what the Father does (Psalm 116:2).

You’ll ask them heart-felt questions, because that’s what the Father does (Genesis 3:11).

You’ll love them unconditionally, because that’s what the Father does (1 John 4:19).

Years from now, those to-do lists will be long-forgotten. But the truth you sow into those kids will become a foundation on which they will build an abundant life. One of those kids needs to hear that God truly values her. One of those kids needs to know that you see real leadership qualities in him. One of those kids (yeah, that really quiet one) needs to know that she is heard. All of them need to know that our ever-faithful God is with them no matter where they go.

So trust that you are making the right decision when you give yourself and your time to the next generation. Be assured, you spent wisely.

Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:20

How to Help Kids Find Their True Identity

How to Help Kids Find Their True Identity

Ask anyone who Eve is (even those who don’t claim to be especially religious) and 9 times out of 10, you’ll hear that she’s the one who ate the forbidden fruit. Everyone knows that, right? Eve’s identity is: the first sinner. And sin, as we know, leads to death. Eve’s decision led everyone toward death. So that has become Eve’s identity. But that’s not the plan God had for her–far from it.

Eve’s very name means “life.” God created her, unique from Adam, to be the means by which every other human being would come into existence. She would birth the very first babies on earth, and all other children would come from them. God’s identity for her was the very essence of LIFE. 

So what turned the tide? What caused Eve to live out an identity so utterly opposite of what her loving Creator planned for her? Simply her belief. When she stopped believing the truth about God, and instead believed the lie that He was withholding something good from her, she stepped into the devil’s snare.

The same was true of Saul of Tarsus. When he believed lies about Jesus–that he wasn’t God's Son, and that he couldn’t have been resurrected–Saul’s identity was that of a vengeful murderer. Everyone in the greater Jerusalem area knew his reputation, and believers fled the city because of him. But then, Saul came face-to-face with the glorious risen Jesus. Suddenly Saul knew he had been dead wrong about everything. He had seen the light (in every sense) and he stepped into the identity God created him for. “Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) What beautiful words: chosen, instrument, messenger. The old identity, born of lies, led to death. The new identity, illuminated in truth, led to life.

It’s the same for our kids today. God has created each of them with unique gifts and abilities perfectly suited for the identity He has planned for them. But the enemy has an opposite plan in mind. As their parents and leaders, we have the blessed opportunity to guide them toward truth and away from lies. When we teach them the authentic word of God, we train them to quickly identify any counterfeit. When they confide in us, we can help them single out voices they hear that are not in line with God’s. When we hear them murmur disparaging words about themselves that were hurled at them by a peer, we can remind them that the Creator of the cosmos sings over them (Zephaniah 3:17). One of the most profound questions we can ask a child is, “What does God say about that?” Pointing our kids to God’s truth and praying they encounter Jesus is the very best way to help them discover their true identity–the one that brings abundant life. 

The First Thing to Get Right When Teaching Kids

The First Thing to Get Right When Teaching Kids

After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, He said to Eliphaz the Teminite, “I am angry with you…”

For what? What was the offense that angered God? Robbing the Temple? Causing an unjust war? Stealing from widows? What was God angry about?

“…for you have not spoken accurately about Me, as my servant Job has.” – Job 42:7*

Scripture lists several actions and attitudes that anger God, but inaccuracy is not one that usually comes to mind. We should take heed.

When we teach kids about God, if we add anything at all or take anything away, we aren’t showing Him to be as good–as perfect–as He actually is. God is the ultimate mixture of grace and truth (John 1:14). We can’t leave out His perfection in preference to His grace, or major on His righteous requirements while glossing over His grace. God’s righteousness makes His grace all the more astonishing; His holiness makes His mercy even greater. Motivated by love, this God with no fault of His own reached down to us–a sinful people–and made a way for us to join Him! So His lavish grace is the magnet that wins our heart and allegiance. It boggles the mind while transforming the heart.

When you think about it, belief in Him is what God has asked of His created since the beginning. How can our kids believe in Him if they don’t really know who He is? But when we show God for who He really is, kids are so likely to fall in love with Him. He is entirely lovable.

So if you teach kids, first things first. Dig into His word and read it with an open mind. Ask Him daily to reveal Himself to you–in His entirety. Ask Him to shine His light on any wrong thoughts so that you only teach full truth. He wants us all to know Him as He is; that is eternal life (John 17:3).

* It should be noted that, mercifully, God allowed Job to offer a sacrifice and pray over his companions to atone for their sin. Our God is fully grace and fully truth.

The Reason Accuracy Matters

The Reason Accuracy Matters

When teaching men to pray, the first thing Jesus said was, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” The Greek word for hallowed is hosios. It means sacred, consecrated, treated properly, right, purely. God’s name–His reputation–is of the utmost importance.

God cares about His reputation for a very good reason:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” - John 17:3

Knowing Him is eternal life. Knowing Him accurately is all that matters. God is good and generous and truthful and patient and kind. When we are exposed to God, as He truly is, that is the motivation to follow Him.

We can’t take teaching lightly. We cannot come into this with a lens that is not 100% Biblical. We cannot bring our tradition, our legalism, our parent issues–nothing but Him. When we do it wrong, kids grow up thinking the wrong things about God. Do you feel the weight of that?

Pastor Buddy Hoffman, recalls being taught as a young boy that on judgment day there would be a giant movie played of our whole life for all to see–even our mothers! Not only would the terrible things we had done be on display, but even the bad things we had merely thought about doing. With wide eyes he chuckled, “That scared me to death. I had quite an imagination!”

I’m sure that a well-meaning Sunday School teacher taught that narrative in an effort to coerce good behavior. But it does not portray God as He is! Certainly, God will judge sin that is not atoned for by the blood of His Son. But is God One who spends His days taking fastidious notes on our behavior in order to humiliate us, or did He send His Son to remove our sins as far as the east is from the west? Does He long to rub our faces in our failures or are His mercies new every morning? The Bible screams the latter (Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 John 1:9).

As teachers and small group leaders, we should be quick to ask God to take away any false perception we have of Him so we cannot pass it on to the next generation. We should dive into His word so we recognize the heart of God and convey it accurately to the young ones under our care so they will know Him–as He is–and have eternal life.

Pass it On

Are we doing a better job than Adam with the mandate we've been given?

The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” – Genesis 2:15-17

Take note. When this conversation took place, Eve had not yet been created. Only Adam heard the clear warning from God. God gave Adam freedom to eat his fill of every tree–except one–or he would surely die. Then God said that Adam should not be alone, and then He crafted Eve from Adam’s rib. 

As Eve’s husband, one of his main tasks would be to protect her. God entrusted Adam with His command. It was Adam’s job to pass on the truth God spoke to him. It was his honor to convey the beautiful, lavish heart of God’s provision, as well as the dire consequences of disobeying. Did he?

It was some time later when Eve was wandering in the garden, near enough to lay eyes on the forbidden tree. We can imagine the sly intonations of the serpent as he cast doubt on what Eve had been told. “Did God really say you must not eat from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1) It’s interesting to note that Eve’s reply entails her adding extra words to God’s command (Genesis 3:3). Within moments, Eve was convinced that the serpent’s plan was better for her than God’s. She took; she ate; she offered it to her husband. 

We are not privy to Adam’s conversations with Eve. We don’t know whether he failed to convey the word and the heart of God accurately. But we certainly know how important it was for him to give it all he had. It’s hard to imagine Eve being so easily swayed if Adam had spent the previous days walking her through the lush garden, excitedly pointing out how good and creative and kind God must be to bless them with the rich bounty of delicious fruits He had given them.

As leaders of kids, we have the same mandate as Adam. We have been entrusted with God’s word and it’s up to us to share it accurately: nothing added and nothing taken away. It’s up to us to express the good, faithful heart of God so our kids have every reason to trust Him when temptations come their way. It’s our honor to be God’s messengers. Let’s ask Him to empower us, because there is so much at stake. 

Time to Celebrate

It has been said, “We cultivate what we celebrate.” So at KidzLife, we’d like to celebrate the abundant fruit God brought forth in 2014. In each of our curriculum series, we present kids with the opportunity to respond to Jesus (always in their own words). We’d love to share just a few of their responses. 

And several of our churches ended the year with baptisms during KidzLife! Families were invited to attend as these precious young souls proclaimed their faith in front of their friends and leaders. What an exciting time it was for everyone who lovingly invests in these kids. 

It's Time to Celebrate What the Lord Has Done!

If you listen closely, you can almost hear the celebration in the presence of angels!     (Luke 15:10)

Target All Three Types of Learners When You Teach

Target All Three Types of Learners When You Teach

Try this experiment. Verbally list ten random items (pen, baseball cap, coin, apple, etc.) Then have a child repeat them back to you. Now, with the same items, show the item as well as saying it’s name. How many items can the child repeat back to you now? Lastly, have the child pick up each item and use it. (Bite the apple, write with the pen, wear the cap, flip the coin). Now how will they do? Experts will tell you these three methods stimulate the three different types of learners. Common sense will tell you the more exposure, the better!

Auditory learners hear. They process information best when it is explained to them verbally. Visual learners see. They comprehend and remember the sights their eyes take in, be it a prop, a picture in a slide, or charts and graphs. Kinesthetic learners touch. They are all in for “hand-on.” They might have a hard time sitting still, but touching, feeling, and manipulating an object will keep their attention.

Any time you teach a group, you are bound to have all three types of learners in your audience. Present your lesson or small group in a way that appeals to all types of learners. The younger a student is, the more reliant he is on one style. As he matures, he should start to use a combination of the styles to process information. By telling, showing, and inviting kids to a hands-on experience, you help all your listeners to process the information easier and you give them the tools to retain it longer. As a side benefit, you will also help expand kids’ capacity for using the other styles, which can only help them in their life-long venture of learning.

Each KidzLife lesson and small group is written keeping all the styles in mind. We seek to grab the attention of all of our young participants and trigger the learning mechanism that will make God’s truth stick for a lifetime.

Kingdom Cash

What is Kingdom Cash & Why Do Kids Love it So Much?

Jesus famously said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) Do you ever wonder why we so often rob our kids of this blessing? We unwittingly train our kids to be little takers instead of givers. It permeates our culture in America. Kids can’t go out for lunch (which, in itself, should be a treat) without clamoring for a toy to go along with the meal that was purchased for them.

Years ago, for our Wednesday night program, our system was to set up a “store” in which our kids could “spend” the credit they earned by memorizing verses. The result? Kids pick out two or three trinkets that would wind up under the back seat of the SUV before they arrived home that night. At best, it was a momentary perk; at worst, we were valuing the Word of God with a ten-cent plastic ring or smiley face pin.

Then we stumbled onto to something better. Much better. We can’t take credit. We borrowed the idea from another church who graciously answered all of our questions. Now our kids earn the ability to give to those in need. Yes, they still get a chocolate kiss for instant gratification, but long term, they save up paper dollars (one earned for every verse recited) and a few times a year, they choose items to buy for others. Whether it’s a mosquito net to protect a family in India, a baby chick that will grow up to supply eggs for a family in Nairobi, or a soccer ball for a school in Peru, our kids are giving items that matter. And oh how they love it.

This is not an inexpensive venture, as our beloved congregation substitutes a real dollar for every dollar earned. But as we see our kids excitedly pooling their resources together and debating which items would help someone the most, our spirits bear witness to the truth Jesus spoke, and our kids feel the blessing.