Archive for the ‘Children’s Ministry’ Category

Prayers for Children

Thanks to John Starke for his realistic article Teaching Children the Gospel in Everyday Prayers. In the same vein, I have penned a few dinner prayers for my children that try to accomplish a few things: 1) address various attributes of the Father, 2) teach a simple theology, and 3) focus on Jesus. For the sake of aiding memory they also rhyme and they’re short. Enjoy!

 

Thankfulness

Everlasting Father,

We thank you for the Way.

We thank you for the Truth.

We thank you for the Life . . .

Jesus, who we bless tonight.

Amen

 

Torah

Holy Father,

You teach us to love

You teach us to give

You teach us to follow

Now teach us to live

For Jesus our Lord

Amen.

 

Provision

Gracious Father,

You give us daily bread

Through Jesus we are led

Our cares and worries we bring

Help this our hearts to sing

To Jesus our Savior

Amen.

 

Call it

Make your call: there are no ties and you can only pick one from each category. Feel free to explain yourself in the comments.

Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh ?

Philadelphia vs. Phoenix ?

More continuity vs. more discontinuity ?

Unaccompanied Psalms only vs. Sovereign Grace music ?

Old perspective vs. New perspective ?

How young was Calvin’s music leader(s)?

In his extremely helpful book, The Writings of John Calvin, Wulfert de Greef makes a passing reference to the articles that John Calvin used for the regulation of worship after he became a minister in Geneva (January 16, 1537). This document was entitled the Articles concerning the Organization of the Church and of Worship in Geneva. I found the following to be an interesting note regarding congregational singing in Calvin’s church:

The ministers expect the singing of psalms to have a positive influence on the prayers and on the glorification of the name of God. A number of qualified children are to be selected to lead the congregation in the singing of the psalms (pg. 111).

The Little Preacher

I just got back from vacation and thought I would recommend a book that I read aloud to the kids while we were gone: The Little Preacher by Elizabeth Prentiss. We have five children ages 11 and under, and not only did they love the book, but it also proved to be a springboard to some good conversation. Check it out.

A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism: An Introduction

[Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will post excerpts from Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) and a two part interview with the author. The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following excerpt is from the Introduction.]

The birth of a baby brings indescribable joy and excitement, as well as a delightful anticipation of what the future holds for the little one. For some Christian parents, however, it also brings a measure of apprehension, for it raises the unsettling question of infant baptism. Should we have our baby baptized? Or is baptism only for those who profess faith in Christ? The question is a significant one, and with godly theologians on both sides of the issue, how can the average believer possibly decide?

Shortly after I was married thirteen years ago, I read my first article in defense of infant baptism. I had spent the previous year happily attending a Presbyterian church where I had grown in my appreciation for reformed theologians and the contribution they had made to my understanding of the doctrines of grace. It only seemed natural that the next step would be to embrace infant baptism, and now, with children hopefully on the way soon, the time to begin my study had arrived.

As I began to read the article, I was secretly hoping to be convinced. Some of my closest friends at the time had made the leap-or at least were in the process-and they seemed hopeful that I too would complete my own personal reformation. In addition, it seemed easier to categorize myself as a Presbyterian than as the theological hybrid I found myself becoming. And besides, how could the church have been wrong on this one for so long?

As I continued to read, however, I found myself less than convinced. I like to think of myself-as most believers do-as being committed to the Scriptures, and as I looked at the biblical arguments presented in the article, I just wasn’t seeing it. I went on to read everything I could get my hands on in favor of infant baptism. In fact, I read hundreds of pages in defense of paedobaptism before reading a single paragraph against it. I was trying to be open-minded, but as I said, I just wasn’t seeing it. And to put it simply, I still don’t.

The purpose of this book is to set forth the reasons I have come to reject infant baptism. You might think of it as an opportunity to eavesdrop on my thoughts on the issue as I’ve wrestled with it over the past decade. I do not offer these arguments in a spirit of antagonism or contempt toward my paedobaptist brothers and sisters. To the contrary, even now as I write, I am reminded of how deeply indebted I am to several dear friends who differ with me on this issue-indebted for their love and commitment to me in very specific ways during times of great personal need. Furthermore, without intending to undermine the significance of the issue of baptism, I should mention that I consider my paedobaptist friends to be precious comrades in the battle for truth in areas of theology more critical than this one.

With that said, I offer six reasons that I reject infant baptism, each of which will be explained in its own chapter. My prayer is that they will be received not as the latest round of artillery in a battle between enemies, but rather as an earnest attempt to strive toward like-mindedness among brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. May the Lord bless each of us as we apply ourselves to the common goal of conforming our thoughts and lives to the truth of His Word.

Review: The Great Elephant

Nik Ranieri has accomplished what few could or will ever do. He is an award winning Disney animation artist who has contributed to classics like Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and The Emperor’s New Groove. What’s even better is that Nik has employed his amazing artistic ability for the glory of God.

If you’ve ever wondered what Disney animation and redemptive content would look like married together then Nik’s children’s book The Great Elephant should answer your curiosity. The story follows a young mouse named Quinn who goes on a journey in search of “the great elephant.” Along the way, Quinn meets a vast assortment of characters who challenge his trust and even a snake that persuades the young mouse to take a “wide road.” This being an allegory, we learn that there is more to this “elephant” than meets the eye.

Many allegories are short-sighted and leave very little to the imagination or for further discovery. Ranieri, however, manages to plot the story at a good pace. Our three year old holds on to every word and can practically finish every sentence. The illustrations are what you would expect from a Disney professional and offer more detail than any book on my kid’s bookshelves. The Great Elephant lays a great foundation through child-friendly literary eloquence. Your kids will want to read it again and again and it’s rare for adults when a children’s book doesn’t wear thin after repeated readings. I highly recommend this great book, The Great Elephant.

Great Elephant, The

“Suffer the children” or suffering children’s ministries?

One of our savvy readers posed the following questions:

“AWANA. How do you view their position on salvation? What is your approach in teaching children about salvation? How is the best way to evangelize children?”

AWANA: As to the first question about AWANA I have no first-hand experience in our church as we do not use the AWANA program. However, I have been a part of churches that use it successfully with great benefit to the parents and children involved. That being said, I know that many have voiced concern as to how the curriculum seems to encourage “bottom-line” style evangelism for children (i.e., working to seek a “decision”). However, any such program can be fine-tuned for a church’s needs and doctrinal persuasion. Programs like this will be as strong or weak as the leadership that oversees such ministries in each church. Some of our other contributors actually use the program so I’ll let them weigh-in on this one.

Approach to salvation: I grew up in what might be called a distinctively man-centered children’s ministry. I came through it in the late 70’s and into the 80’s and our church was one of the first mega-churches to “explore” children’s ministry possibilities. There were over 1,000 children in that ministry at its peek. I learned a ton of information including many gospel basics but week in and week out I was pressed with a heavy hand to make a decision for Jesus. What kid growing up in church would not raise his hand when asked if he loved Jesus? Looking back it is clear to me that the entire ministry was designed to do what parents should have been doing all along.

Now there are some (many of whom I count as friends) who have in my opinion over corrected this problem and have called for what they deem family-integrated churches which means the children are never separated from their parents for any ministry. When I started here at the church there were a few families that had been drinking from this cistern and they encouraged me to cancel all Sunday schools and even women’s Bible studies in an effort to unite church and home. Those families are long gone and now they each have “churches” in their homes which no one attends but their children (for now anyways). See here for an excellent interview about “family integrated churches.”

At our church we have tried to steer clear of these extremes by coming along side parents in their God-given roles. In fact we state that “The Children’s Ministry at Grace Community Church is designed to come along side the normal parental training and help further equip children to learn about God through teaching, games, crafts and various activities.” This all assumes that parents are the ones responsible to evangelize their children. So we encourage our parents to read to their children, to talk openly about Christ and to lead their child to see their greatest need. This takes patience, faithfulness, and boldness on the part of parents. We have SS and activities for children but it is all designed to help the parents and continually point the children to Christ without the pressure to report “decisions”. All of this means that we spend a lot of time (publicly and privately) encouraging our parents to fulfill their responsibility to evangelize their children. We also remind one another that some will plant, others will water but it is God who causes the growth.

On the practical side of things, my wife and I read with our children everyday. This helps us to lay a foundation of truth in their hearts. With our little ones (2.5 yrs and 10 mo.) we read to them from The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible. With our five year old we read from the classic The Child’s Story Bible which was written many years ago by Catherine Vos, the wife of Dutch-Reformed theologian Geerhardus Vos. We also try to show our kids that following Christ is not something we do merely at set times but is an all day everyday pursuit. So we find ourselves always talking about Jesus even at the most unexpected places and times. As a pastor I give out lots of copies of Dennis Gundersen’s excellent little book Your Child’s Profession of Faith and also Jim Eliff’s article on Childhood Conversion. I would also mention that I do not consider my unbelieving children as members of the New Covenant simply because they are under my household. We pray that they will repent and then be baptized and that their faith will grow as they live for the glory of Christ. What a great responsibility and an awesome privilege we have as parents. May God strengthen our steps and show His favor!

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