Tag Archives: kids

Family Devotion: God’s Creativity

From: He Loves Me – Family Devotions

 Read: Genesis 1:20-25

On the fifth day God created the birds and the fish. Have you ever noticed how many different kinds of birds there are? God made each of them ‘according to their kind.’ They are all so different! They have different colours, sizes, and even their eggs look different. Each type of bird has a beak that is designed for the type of food they eat. They all make nests, but there are many different types of nests. Somehow, each kind of bird knows exactly how to make the type of nest that is perfect for their environment! Many birds migrate in different seasons. They travel to places where there is food and weather that is good for them. Birds don’t have passports, compasses or maps, yet they know exactly where to go! God had a specific design for each of them.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:29 that God sees the sparrows, and not one of them falls to the ground without God knowing about it. God knows all the details about everything. He knows each animal and each person in this world! If you start to look at the tiniest details in the world, you’ll never find a thing that God doesn’t know. He knows everything! Isn’t that amazing?

  • Go have a look at some animals, and carefully look at the details on its body. How many details can you find? List them all. God created those details!

Thank God for being the Creator of all the birds and the fish. Thank Him for caring for us more than for the birds of the air.

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Barrier #6: I’m SO Smart!

This is the last barrier in the series From Barriers to Values, and it is one that I didn’t discover until after I had started been giving this training module at our church for some time. As I began to recognize the existence of this well-disguised barrier, I started to see that this is a barrier we cannot afford to ignore.

As we get to know the children in our classes, we can easily divide them into a few categories. There are the disruptive ones, who often get in trouble because they always push the boundaries and step outside them in order to see what will happen. There are a few clowns, who may or may not get in trouble, depending on how good they are at staying just within those boundaries. There are some average kids, who are neither clowns nor pushers, and although many of them may not be particularly eager to learn, they do quite well in general. And then there are the smart ones. Some of them are simply very smart, and may not even realize it or they may not think much of it. But there may be some who like being smart and they are proud of it. Some of them want to answer all questions and do so before anyone else does. Some have a need to show off.

This sixth barrier, I’m So Smart, is not a barrier in all kids, but it is a barrier for kids who are prideful about being smart. This barrier is different than the previous ones, as most of those focus on kids who struggle to engage. This barrier focuses on kids who actually are very engaged, but they focus on head knowledge and impressing others, without engaging their hearts with the message. They have pride in their hearts.

The Bible says, “Knowledge puff us.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) Pride is never good. We can be proud of our accomplishments in a humble sort of way, knowing that what we accomplished we were only able to do because God gave us the ability, but pride is not like that. Pride says, “I’m better than you!” In this case it says, “I’m smarter than you and therefore I am better than you!” And, though it may be subtle, it says so with attitude.

Well-meaning teachers often feed into this barrier, perhaps mostly unintentionally. It is fed when we have children memorize verses and hand out prizes to the ones who have memorized the most. It is fed when we only ask knowledge-based questions. It is fed when we always let the same children answer. It is fed when teachers favour smart kids. If left unchecked, the smart kids get more prideful and the not-so-smart-kids feel more and more left out, and will eventually give up and stop trying.

Knowing a lot about the Bible, of course, is great. Memorizing verses is important. Having brains that can process information well is a wonderful blessing. So how do we deal with this barrier?

Strategy 11: Reaching Hearts

Children’s Ministry is not about head-knowledge only, and it’s not about giving perfect answers. What is it about, then? I believe the answer is not so hard to find, although implementing it will require constant watchfulness on our part. Here’s our strategy: we must focus on reaching the hearts of the children.

“Knowledge puffs up,” the Bible says, and then it continues, “but love builds up.” Our answer is love. Focus on love. Help the children discover God’s amazing, powerful, transforming love for them. Help the children to love God above all, and to love others as themselves. As we do this, they will be built up in a healthy way.

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You see, God has always been after our love. He wants us to love Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5) Although He wants us to know Him with our minds, God does not just want us to have head-knowledge about Him. Neither does He want just an emotional response from us. He wants all of us. No holding back. And the most amazing part of it is that above all He wants our love. He wants us to love Him with our hearts. He wants us to love Him with our souls. He wants us to love Him with our minds. He wants us to love Him with our strength. How amazing that the Creator of the universe longs for my love, for your love, and for the love the children can give Him.

Here are some practical steps:

  • Teach the children from your heart. Let the stories enter your heart as you prepare to teach them, as I described in Strategy 7: Value Excellence – Excellence from your Heart. Let the story change you, move you, penetrate you. You cannot teach from your heart if the story has not entered your heart. If it has only entered your head, it will only come from your head and reach the heads of the children.
  • As you teach, point out things about God’s character and how He demonstrates His love, care, protection and faithfulness to the people in the stories. Focus on things that will help the children stand in awe of God, rather than just focussing on the facts of the things that happened in the story. This will help to strengthen their love for God as well as their faith.
  • Instead of asking “knowledge” questions, include other kinds of questions. Ask questions about how they can apply the stories to their lives. Ask questions that require honesty and openness about the things the kids might be struggling with. Praise kids for giving honest answers, not just the “right” answers.
  • Do not reward answering questions with candy or stickers or other things. This will only motivate the kids to answer by telling you what they think you want to hear, rather than telling you what is in their hearts.
  • Don’t always choose the same children to answer your questions.
  • Don’t treat smarter kids as your favorites, as this can breed bitterness in the other children.
  •  When children give answers that you don’t quite understand, or that don’t seem to make sense, ask more questions to clarify what they are trying to say. Sometimes they have a hard time expressing themselves, and they may actually have a great point hidden underneath their confusing answer.
  •  Encourage children to obey God, not out of obligation, but from their hearts. Teach them about having a positive attitude as they obey. Teach them to obey God because you love Him, not because you want to stay out of trouble.
  • Sometimes doing the right thing is hard. Sometimes understanding what is going on in our lives is hard. Model transparency and honesty. Tell the kids that you sometimes struggle with certain things as well so that they can see that nobody is perfect, and that it is okay to talk about it. Do this in a child-appropriate way. If they ask a difficult question and you don’t now the answer, tell them. You can say that you’ll look into it and will try to have an answer next time. Or you can tell them that some things are a mystery, and we do not have answers to all questions.
  • Model being teachable. Being teachable requires humility, and is the opposite of a prideful “I know it all” attitude. You can tell them about the new things you have discovered in the lesson yourself. Encourage the kids to be teachable as well.

When we focus on reaching the hearts of the children with God’s love, we will work to bring down this prideful barrier in our children. As we seek to build up our children through love, all children, the smart ones and the not-so-smart ones, will be able to know that they are loved and valued, not because of the perfect answers they give, but simply because they were wonderfully created by our God. Let’s show all our children that our mighty God dearly loves them.

Other articles in this series:

From Barriers to Values
Barrier #1: No Relationships
Barrier #2: Church is Boring
Strategy 3: Value Fun
Strategy 4: Value Creativity
Strategy 5: Value Learning Styles
Strategy 6: Value the Uniqueness of Childhood
Barrier #3: Poor Presentation
Strategy 8: Value Storytelling Techniques
Barrier #4: It’s Just a Bunch of History
Barrier #5: I Don’t Understand!

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Storytelling Videos

How to explain some of the techniques used in storytelling…?
I figured that it’s better to use videos! Here are a few.

Here’s a video that shows how important it is that we pay attention to how we say words when we tell a story:

Do you know the story about Bartimaeus? It’s in Luke 18:35-43. It’s one of the great stories included in our He Loves Me curriculum. Here is a video that introduces the story:

Our Joseph curriculum tells the great stories about his life, and helps children discover how they can live their lives for God as well. The story of Joseph’s life was full of drama, hardships, unexpected twists and turns. If you don’t know the story, it’s found in the Bible in Genesis 37, 39-50. Here’s a short video from one of the lessons.

Get some great storytelling ideas! Read more about storytelling, and watch more videos about how to step into the story, how to switch roles as you tell a story, and how to step into the narrator’s role.

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Barrier #3: Poor Presentation

Jesus told us not to hinder the children from coming to Him. What does hindering look like? What are the barriers in children’s ministry that keep children from coming closer to Jesus? We looked at two barriers so far: No Relationship and Church is Boring. Now we will look at the third one: Poor Presentation.It may look something like this:

Teacher: Today we are talking about… [Looks at her paper, tries to figure out where to look.] Ehm… Jonah… I think. [Fumbles some more with the paper, turns it around.] I mean Esther. Esther, yes, that’s right. She was ehm… a woman… who lived in… [Reads from her paper, holds it up in front of her face, squints] a country. And she was a girl, I mean. Women are girls too, but she was not quite a woman yet. But she was female. She was not grown up yet. She was still a girl. Like you guys. Well, some of you… I guess… Because some of you are boys. So the boys are not girls. And ehm… [Looks at the paper again, smiles reassuringly at the kids. But the kids are not reassured by her smile. They don’t even notice her smile. They are not listening to the teacher-who-doesn’t-know-what-she’s-talking-about. They do know what they are talking about – they are talking to the kids beside them about their new iPad game. And, unlike their teacher, they do have a lot of interesting things to say about them.]

Does this sound a bit over the top? Perhaps it does. Unfortunately, it is probably closer to the truth that we’d like to admit, and it’s all because we often do not prepare our lessons as well as we should, and that does present a barrier – the barrier of a poor presentation.

Honestly speaking, taking down this barrier was a something that I did not learn very quickly myself. I remember that probably the first year that I volunteered in our church in The Netherlands, I always felt defeated after Sunday School. Every time I sighed as I told myself, “I have got to do a better job preparing.” The following month I put in more effort, but it still was not cutting it. Part of the problem was that I did my preparation on Saturday. I had to think of what I was going to do, and that was all I did. I had a general idea, I had a few main points. I kind of envisioned what I was going to do, but in real life, it never turned out that way. I always fell short of what I had pictured in mind. Picturing it was not good enough. So how could I take down this barrier?

Strategy 7: Value Excellence – Excellence from your Heart

When I volunteered some years later in our church in Canada, we started off by using a curriculum called FLIPT from Promiseland, Willow Creek. I learned tons from using that curriculum and it continues to be one of my favorites. I noticed that they did things with excellence. Indeed, the lessons were excellent. But the videos with the stories were done so professionally, so well, so fresh, so child-oriented, so beautifully, that I was sold out on the concept of excellence immediately. The kids were captivated. “If I can teach the kids like that… Wow! That is what I have been missing all this time!”

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There is a catch to excellence. When we have a single focus on excellence, we can easily become somewhat obsessed with giving a perfect performance for the kids. This is a dangerous path, because we shift our eyes from Jesus, and start focussing on having the coolest, best presentation, and it becomes about bringing glory to ourselves instead of to God. How can we avoid this? How can we focus on excellence and still make it all about bringing glory to God? I believe that the Bible gives us the solution. Have a look at this verse:

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ Colossians 3:23, 24 (NIV)

When I read this verse, it spells excellence to me. And it spells it beautifully and perfectly, because it shows that true excellence comes from working at things with all our hearts and with a single focus on Jesus. We get in trouble when we want to teach with excellence for the purpose of being excellent and impressing our audience. This is never right. We must teach with a desire for excellence that comes from our hearts and we must do so humbly. As long as we are clearly aware that we work for the Lord and serve Him in order to make His name great, we will bring glory to Him. We teach with excellence not to be cool or engaging, but simply because we are madly in love with Jesus, and because of our great love for Him. We teach with excellence because we want to see Him glorified.

As I discovered the importance of the Value of Excellence from our Hearts, I started to ponder about the great honor it is to teach God’s Word. God, the Almighty Creator, all powerful and glorious, who is in charge of the universe… He reached down into our world. He decided to make Himself known to us. He did not just give us a sign to show us that He exists somewhere, but He actually made Himself known through His Word. He did not just give us a few pages, but He gave us a Book with sixty-six books, written by different authors during different centuries in different countries. And this Book is all one great big story – the Story of how God reveals Himself to us and rescues us from an evil, horrible mess that we chose ourselves. It cost Him dearly. It cost Him His only Son. And His Son decided to obey and follow God’s plan to rescue us. And rescue He did. Not only did He save us from hell, He also restored us, redeemed us, and continually transforms us so that we can now have a relationship – a deep, strong, beautiful love-relationship with Him. Incredible. Unbelievable, and yet we must believe it. How could I ever give anything less than my very best, my excellence, as I share this Story with the children God has entrusted me with?

Prepare

Excellence, not perfection, means that I pour my heart into preparing to the very best of my ability. It means that I pray as I prepare. I seek God’s guidance. I ask Him to open the hearts of the children. I ask Him to use me as a humble vessel. I ask Him to speak through me.

And then I memorize my lesson. Yep, memorize. I take time. I do not memorize word-for-word necessarily, but I do memorize sentence-by-sentence without giving myself too much freedom in how I change the sentences. The meaning of the sentences must remain the same, although sometimes the order of the words or the order of sentences may change slightly. I memorize lessons paragraph-by-paragraph. I take hours to prepare so I will know very well what I am going to say. Memorization brings your teaching to a whole new level, guaranteed. I didn’t believe in memorization at first, but I accepted the challenge to try it, and I have never gone back. You see, if you do not have your lesson memorized, as you speak to the kids your mind will think, “What is coming next again? I hope I remember…” And while you teach with a worried mind, you teach from your head. If you teach from your head, you’ll likely only reach the heads of the kids. In order to reach their hearts, you must teach from your heart. So let the story enter your heart. You must know it, and know it very well. Memorization is a crucial key to excellence.

As I prepare, I let the message sink into my own heart. It is easy to skip this in our preparation and focus on the listeners and how this message is so important for them. But we must apply the truths to our own lives first and let the message change our own hearts before we teach it to the children. As you prepare, take time to let it sink deeply into your heart and spirit. Pray that God will reveal the depth of the message to you, and that He will help you see how He wants you to apply it to your own life. Ask Him to reveal things to you that you may not be aware of yourself.

After that, I practice teaching out loud. Now that I know the words, I want to figure out how I am going to say them. Because I memorized the lines, I am now able to focus on “how”. So I practice, usually in my bedroom. I tell people not to disturb me and I practice it several days in row. I test-drive my lesson, and try different ways of saying different things. I try out different ideas I have for body language, I play with volume and I figure out how to bring across the emotions in the story. As I do this, I get to know the story in a new way, and (I smile as I write this) that is actually one of the most powerful Bible study methods I know. As I practice, God reveals things to me. This is often when the story enters my heart. I get excited about how God reveleals Himself through the story and it touches me in a deep and personal way. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I just savour the beauty. Good stuff.

So I encourage you to prepare and prepare well. It takes time, but this investment is well worth it. Then, as you teach with excellence, let your message flow from your heart. Then your teaching will be genuine. You will see that you will be much more passionate about the stories and the truths you will teach the children. The blessings that flow through this will take your breath away. It will take down the Barrier of a Poor Presentation.

Coming up next – Strategy 8: Value Storytelling Techniques

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Strategy 3: Value Fun

We just talked about Barrier #2: Church is Boring. And we talked about Strategy 2: Value This Opportunity. Isn’t that just so exciting? So… what do we actually do? How do we go from having a boring program to having a non-boring program? Beside never losing our excitement about This Opportunity, the second thing we must highly value is FUN. We must have fun with our kids! Our kids love to have fun. In fact, learning is easy if it is also fun. But mostly we have fun because we want to show the kids that we enjoy being around them, and that we appreciate and value them.

So what do you do to have fun? There are so many ways to have fun! Joke around, give out random prizes for crazy things (Who has the most orange in his clothes today? You will receive today’s prize!). Use fun, cool actions in the songs that you sing with them. Do the actions with them and do them BIG, even if it initially feels weird or uncomfortable. Make them giggle and laugh. Do not be serious all the time. Play fun games. Use water, balloons, magic tricks – kids love these things. Celebrate with them. Have fun!

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I do want to bring a word of warning about fun. Sometimes fun becomes the only objective in ministry settings, and that is not a good thing. Our main objective is not to have fun. We simply have fun as we are building relationships and learning about God and growing in our relationship with Him. We must balance fun with our other values, so that we do not become “just another entertainment option”.

Coming up next – Strategy 4: Value Creativity

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Barrier #2: Church is Boring

When I was a kid, our church was boring. Was it ever boring. It didn’t matter if we were in church with the adults, or if we went to the kids program. It was just plain boring. I remember this one day that I went to Sunday School, and this guy showed up whom I had never seen before. He sat down, put his feet on the table, leaned a bit more to the back and said, ‘So… what do you guys wanna do? I don’t have anything prepared. I was just told to go here. The person who was supposed to be here never showed up. So they told me to go and keep you guys here, in this room. What do you guys normally do? Do you want to color or something?’ The rest of the 20 minutes in that room were pretty rowdy. Kids were running around and playing with the curtains on the stage, inventing a new version of tag. You see, we didn’t want to be bored, but it was terribly boring. So because the adult was not doing anything to make it less boring, we took matters into our own hands, and we came up with things to do that made the boredom go away. If we needed to choose between boredom and misbehaving, we’d choose misbehaving. Every time. Guaranteed. I truly believed that this guy did not care. He didn’t care about us and he didn’t care about what we thought of church. So why would we listen to him?

I believe that many behavioural problems in children’s ministry settings have much to do with the fact that the program is actually boring. Kids don’t like to be bored, so if they are, they’ll find a way not-to-be-bored, and they’ll misbehave or become disruptive if that is what it takes.

It’s actually really sad that Children’s Ministry programs can be quite boring. I do not believe for a second that the disciples were ever bored when they were with Jesus – ever. Something seems to have gone wrong in how we approach this thing called Children’s Ministry, and much of it has to do with how we see this ministry and how we see the kids. As you could tell from my story, the people in my church did not take Children’s Ministry seriously at all. They saw it as a babysitting service, and the only people benefiting were the parents, because they could listen to the sermon without wiggly kids around. And the kids did wiggle if they sat with them, because – you guessed it- they were bored. So how do we change this? How do we move away from having a boring ministry? What should we be seeing?

Strategy 2: Value This Opportunity
I strongly believe that if our eyes can be opened to the opportunity God has placed before us, the passion that then grows in our hearts will be so strong that we cannot ever and will not ever allow ourselves to have a boring program for our kids. Ever! THIS is our opportunity. THESE one or two hours per week are our opportunity to reach the hearts and lives of these kids. An hour or two, that’s hardly anything! So grab hold of it! Don’t let anyone take this opportunity away from you!! It is your chance to show the kids God’s incredible love for them. We are the ones to tell them that God has a plan for their lives. That He longs to have the coolest, most amazing relationship with them. That Jesus died on the cross for them to forgive their sins, and that His resurrection power is available to them! They can live their lives for Him! They can serve the Most High God! They can experience His presence and His gentle love in their lives! He wants to transform them and make them grow strong and loving and kind so that they can reach out to those around them. God has adventures in store for them. There is so much… and then so much more… THIS is our opportunity!

Coming up next – Strategy 3: Value Fun

 

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Barrier #1: No Relationships

In the story in Mark chapter 10, the disciples didn’t realize that they were doing something that Jesus was going to take very personally: they hindered the children from coming to Jesus. They were rebuked by Jesus in front of the parents, because Jesus became indignant. He was upset with them. He told them not to hinder them, but to let them come. Jesus wants us to remove the barriers. So, how do we do it? How do we not hinder the children? How do we let them come closer and closer to Jesus? Let’s look at the first barrier that keeps many children in our churches from coming to Jesus.

Barrier #1: No Relationships
The first barrier is No Relationships – or a lack thereof. Real ministry happens in the context of relationship. We open up our hearts to those we trust and to those who respect us and value us. If the children in our churches do not have relationships with people in church, they will not feel connected. If there are no adults who purposefully enter into a genuine relationship with a child, who show a child that he is seen and valued and wanted, it will become very difficult for this child to feel like he is part of the church.

Let’s think about it from a child’s perspective. He might say, ‘If you don’t pay attention to me, and if you act like I am a nuisance and need to be babysat so that I won’t interrupt your precious program, please don’t expect me to ask you any questions about God. Don’t expect me to tell you about any of my problems. And certainly do not expect that I will ever open up my heart to you.’

Value: Relationships!
We conquer barriers with values. When we highly value something, it will always be part of how we do things – not just one week, but each and every single week. The value that conquers this barrier is obvious: we must build relationships with the children! These relationships must be genuine and must be based on love, trust and respect.

In order to be able to build relationships with our kids, we need to know why we are in Children’s Ministry in the first place, because if our reasons are not right, we will spend time with them, but we probably will not enter into relationships with the kids. Only if we are genuinely interested in the kids, if we actually really care about them as individuals, then we will be able to build relationships. There may be many reasons why people are involved in Children’s Ministry, and often several reasons are mixed together. Kids are able to sense if our motives are genuine or not. We need to examine and re-examine our motives to make sure we are involved for the right reasons. Are we there to meet our own needs? Are we trying to look impressive? Are we trying to be the coolest teacher with the most fans? These kinds of motives mostly focus on us and not on the kids! Not a good foundation for relationships! Are we serving because we really care about the kids? Do we truly see them as they are? Are we aware of God’s fierce, passionate, deep love for them, and of His desire to pursue them because He wants to have an amazing relationship with them?

Our relationships need to be based on love. We need to ask ourselves: Do we actually love them? Do we love the kids who behave well and the kids who disrupt the program? Do we love the quiet kids and the loud ones? The wiggly ones and the giggly kids? You see, the funny thing is that it is actually much easier to love these kids once we build a relationship with them! The more you get to know them, the more you will see their strengths and uniqueness, the stronger your love for them will grow.

Our relationships need to be based on trust and respect. We need to ask ourselves: Are we trustworthy? Do we listen to them, and take their questions seriously? Do we treat their questions and the things they share with respect? Do we ask more questions when we don’t quite understand what they mean so that we can draw out what they truly are trying to communicate? Do we make sure that the kids in our Small Group won’t be laughed at by the other kids in the group?

Relationship building takes time, but it is so rewarding. I’ve noticed that the behavior of the children changes when there is a relationship with the teachers. It’s always a lot more work to work with a group of kids you don’t know, so never let your first experience with a group of kids be the determining factor in whether or not Children’s Ministry is the right place for you to serve. The first time is always hard!

Fear-based Relationships
It’s interesting to see what happens when a teacher leaves the room. If the relationship is based on fear (“I better behave so I don’t get in trouble”), the children are quickly inclined to misbehave when the teacher leaves the room. This also happens when the kids have a lack of respect for the teacher (“He is not here to see what we’re doing, so we don’t care that we are misbehaving!!”). When the relationship is based on fear, there needs to be pressure coming from the outside to motivate the kids to behave properly. But when there is a relationship based on love, trust and respect, the children are more inclined to behave well when the teacher steps out of the room, because they have an internal motivation to do so.

Relationship Building Strategy: Small Groups
The easiest way to build relationships in Children’s Ministry is through Small Groups. Jesus modelled this for us. He had his own Small Group of twelve disciples. Small Groups are the perfect setting for building relationships. One teacher and up to twelve kids see each other every week (or every two weeks), talk about how to live their lives for Jesus, share their experiences, and hold each other accountable; that is the perfect setting for cultivating relationships. Week after week the teacher shows the children that he cares about them, that he remembers the details of previous conversations, that he takes them seriously and that loves having fun with them. Can you see it? It is so beautiful. As the relationships grow, the teacher gains the right to speak into the lives of the kids, and he gets to be ministered to by the children, too.

Building relationships takes time and effort and it does not happen overnight. You must be willing to invest, just like Jesus invested in his disciples. In order to facilitate this, I always keep the rule that volunteers must come every week or every two weeks. No exceptions. When I started in Children’s Ministry, I volunteered once a month and real relationships simply did not develop. It just doesn’t work. If a child doesn’t come the week that you are there, you won’t see that child for two months! If you are serious about reaching kids, volunteering every 2 weeks is no big deal at all, and it will actually make it much, much more rewarding for everyone involved.

Kids are desperate for adults who will invest in them in this way. I have seen it happen so many times; suddenly kids start to share very personal stories, or they ask questions that have been on their minds for a long time. They are waiting for an opportunity to share with someone – someone they can trust, someone who will actually listen, someone who genuinely cares and who will pray for them. Sadly, often kids don’t have many adults in their lives who are really there for them. If you are willing to invest your time, you can be the person for them. The kids are waiting to have this barrier broken in their lives – the barrier of not really knowing people in their church, people in Children’s Ministry. And this barrier keeps them from getting closer to Jesus. They are waiting for someone. Will you be that person for them?

Coming up next – Barrier 2: Church is Boring

 

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From Barriers to Values

I love the story of Jesus and the little children from Mark 10. It’s such a well-known story. The problem with well-known stories is that we often stop paying attention to them. “Oh, yeah… I already know this one,” we think, and we let our thoughts wander elsewhere. But God always has something new for us even if we hear a story for the 100th time – if we are willing to pay attention to the details and if we let the Holy Spirit guide us!

Let’s have a look at the story. It starts with people who are bringing their little children to Jesus ‘to have Him touch them’. They wanted their children to be blessed by Jesus, because they somehow felt that this would be a good thing for their kids. But the disciples were self-appointed body guards that day. The Bible says they rebuked the parents. Basically they said something like, “You’re bringing… who? Your little kids? Are you kidding me? In case you haven’t noticed, Jesus is very, very busy. Jesus is busy with real ministry – adult ministry. He has no time for your kids! What in the world were you thinking to bring… kids!!  Little kids at that! Just get out of here!”

But then Jesus realized what was going on. He heard the commotion and came over to see. And when He saw what the disciples were doing, He became indignant. That’s right, indignant. We don’t read very often that Jesus was upset, but this time the disciples were in for a rebuke themselves. Right in front of all these parents, Jesus became indignant, because they got it so very, very wrong and it made Jesus angry to see them treat the children like this.

‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’

I think there was a strong a hint of sternness and rebuke in His voice as Jesus said these words to the disciples. Read it again, and think of a strong, stern voice. ‘Let them come! Do not hinder them! What are you doing, keeping them away from Me?’ It was not just because Jesus thought these kids were cute and that He liked to give them a nice little pat on their heads – it went way beyond that. Jesus proceeded to tell the disciples that the Kingdom of God belongs to the little kids. Not to the ones who have been Christians for twenty-six years, not to those with a degree from seminary, not to the evangelists and not the people who have memorized the most Bible verses. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the kids. To the little kids. They are the ones who have the greatest ability to receive His kingdom. They are the most receptive, the most open. Pure, little children, those are the ones who own the Kingdom.

Jesus took it even further. ‘Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of heaven like a little child will never enter it.’ Jesus turned everything around. It’s not about children who need to stop acting like kids and should be acting like grown-ups; it’s the grown-ups who need to change and become like little children. Imagine that! If we don’t, we cannot even enter the Kingdom of heaven. Isn’t that just so amazing…

Then Jesus showed His love to the kids. I can just imagine Him crouching down, opening up His arms wide… Kids run to Him with huge smiles on their faces, throw themselves at Him so that He almost tumbles over with them… Kids giggle as they receive a big bear-hug from Jesus. I just wish I could be one of those children and look Jesus in His eyes, as lifts me up and puts His hand on my head and He speaks a blessing over me. Right then and there, Jesus gave the children His full attention. He was definitely not too busy for them. He loved them so much and was excited to show His love to them so that they would know for the rest of their lives: Jesus loves me. He sees me. He highly values me. He has time for me. He embraces me. He delights in me. He blesses me.

Jesus’ love and deep concern for kids is just all over this story. Jesus loves kids, and He sees how we treat our kids. Jesus takes how we treat children very personally. So when I stand up for children, Jesus stands with me. When I embrace a child, Jesus embraces that child with me. When I invest in them and plant seeds in their hearts, Jesus is right there to make the seeds grow and bear fruit. Bear fruit now.

The disciples hindered the children. I bet they didn’t really realize what they were actually doing, and I think this often happens in churches today too. Children are hindered from getting close to Jesus. They face obstacles. Sometimes these obstacles are just there, and sometimes we put them in their way without realizing it. But Jesus clearly tells us not to hinder them. So what do the barriers look like? And how can we remove them and encourage children to grow close to Jesus?

I’ve thought about this question, and I have identified six barriers that often get in the way. In the following articles I will explain what those barriers are, and what we can do to get rid of them, not just for one week or one month, but to get rid of them permanently. The trick is to replace the barrier with a value. We must value the solution to the problem so much, that we will let the value guide us in how we minister to our children. We must replace the Barriers with Values.

Read about the first barrier: No Relationships.

You can download the full document here.

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