Our youth group leader once asked us this question: If someone were to observe you live your life, but he would never actually talk to you, would he be able to tell that you are a Christian? Frankly, this question scared me. I thought, “Oh, no! What if this person couldn’t? How is a person supposed to be able to tell that I am a Christian through the way I live anyway?” I started to look for answers by listening carefully to pastors on Sunday mornings. For years I sat in church on Sunday mornings, waiting for them to tell me what I should DO with the things they preached. But sadly, they never did. They preached wonderful sermons, and I agreed with most of the theological things they talked about, but then, as they neared the end of the sermon, and I was waiting for them to tell me how to apply this to my life, the sermon came to an end. They never did tell me. I was not able to find an answer in church.
I wanted to know how I should live my life as a Christian. I wanted to know what it should look like on Monday at 6:23 AM and on Thursday at 11:35 AM and on Friday at 8:56 PM. You see, I knew most of the Bible stories. I had heard them in Sunday School, at the Christian schools I had attended, and at home every evening after supper as we read the Bible together. But somehow, hearing the stories and understanding how to apply them to my life were two different things, and they were disconnected. No one taught me how and therefore, when I was 26 years old, I still didn’t know how to do that. For the most part, the stories in the Bible were stories, and that was it. They were historical accounts of things that happened to people a long time ago. But I did not know how to move on to the next level.
So if I, as a 26-year-old, having gone to church all my life, could not figure it out, how do we expect children to know how to do it? The answer is that they won’t know, unless we teach them how to do it. If we don’t, we leave a major barrier in place. This is Barrier #4: The Bible is Just a Bunch of History, and we must implement a value to conquer the barrier.
Strategy #9: Value Relevance, Practical Application
Years after the challenge that was given by our youth leader, God intervened in our lives. I read books written by Floyd McClung and Loren Cunningham and other authors from YWAM. Praise God, those books did provide the answer to my question. God totally changed our lives around during that season. We also started to use the FLIPT curriculum from Promiseland (Willow Creek) in Children’s Ministry in our church in Canada. Each and every single lesson had a clear, practical application for the lives of the children. Each week the kids learned how to apply a story from the Bible to their lives. I was super excited. I had been struggling with this for years, and here these kids were, in church, learning how to do this, every single week! I saw this value in action, and I strongly believe that this is a vital strategy as we reach out to our kids.
I wholeheartedly believe that we must give our children clear, relevant, practical examples to show them how the stories connect with their lives. The more specific our examples are, the easier it is for the kids to understand what we mean. Instead of saying “When someone is mean to you, you should show kindness”, make it specific and say, “When your sister says, ‘Leave me alone, you little brat!’ and you feel like saying something mean back to her, don’t give in to the temptation. Be kind instead.”
Let me give some examples from our Joseph – Living for God lessons to show what I mean. In our lessons we call it “The Connection”, as it connects the story to the lives of the kids.
Joseph is Tempted – Genesis 39. The connection: Joseph said ‘no’ to temptation, and so can we. What kinds of temptations do the children in your group face? Here are some possible questions:
You are upset with your brother because he read a secret note you had in your notebook and he told his friends about it. You feel like telling your friends something embarrassing about your brother to get even with him. What can you do to say ‘no’ to temptation?
You broke you sister’s shoelace when you borrowed her shoes without asking. No one knows you did it, and you put them back where you found them. A little later your sister asks if you know how her shoelaces broke. What do you do?
Here is another example from Joseph in Prison – Genesis 39 and 40. The connection: Joseph served God no matter where he was, and we can serve God too. The children will think about situations in their lives in which they can serve God and serve others. Kids can serve God at home, at school and in their neighbourhood. Here are some possible questions:
Your mother is sick. Name three things you can do to help.
What could you do to help your teacher?
You walk to school with your younger sister. She forgot her notebook at home and she needs to bring it to school. What could you do to help her?
In the He Loves Me curriculum, there is the story of the Good Samaritan. During this lesson the kids think about ways in which they can show compassion to others. The story about Bartimaeus will help the children to think about what it looks like to call out to God and how God answers our prayers. After hearing the story about Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, they think about what it means to surrender everything to Jesus, and how He takes care of us when we use what He has given us.
Connecting the stories to our lives is of huge importance for the growth of our faith and our relationship with God and others. No matter what story we tell or what lesson we teach, we should always show the kids how the story is relevant to them and how they can live out their faith in practical ways. Then they will see that the Bible is so much more than just a history book!
Read about the next Barrier: – Barrier #5: I Don’t Understand!
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