Tuesday, August 20, 2013

God Is Great Book Giveaway

It's time for a book giveaway.  Come on, children's ministry volunteers! Help me clean out my box of author's copies. This week I'm offering my second book in the series Five Minute Sunday School Activities: God is Great.

Our kids are bombarded with diversity messages.  Relativity reigns!  Any way is the right way if that's the way you want to follow.  Jesus is fine but no better than any other religious figure.  That's what the world wants our children to believe.

And that's why it is increasingly important that we teach our children what makes our God distinctive and more worthy of our attention and devotion than any other thing in this world.  Forty-two lessons in this book portray God as Judge, King and Savior, and will show the children in your life why the Lord God Almighty is worthy of our worship.

I love Rainbow Publisher's series of books entitled "Five Minute Sunday School Activities." Each lesson contains a one-page lesson plan and a reproducible page that reviews the bible story, reinforces the memory verse, or drives home the daily life application.  If you are looking for a series of simple to prepare lessons for Grades 1-6, this material may well fit your needs.

This past spring, Rainbow published three titles that I had the privilege to create. In addition to the "God Is Great" book, I also wrote "Built On A Rock" - 42 lessons on the establishment of the Church, and "Forever Faithful" - 42 lessons about Bible characters who overcame obstacles through God's help.  You can find any of these titles at your local Christian Bookstore, Christianbook.com or Rainbow Publishers.com.
If you would like a chance to own a copy of this curriculum guide, leave a comment or send me an email.  Tell me this: What is the most important thing you think we need to teach children?  Please, INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS!! If you are uncomfortable sharing that publically, simply contact me privately through my contact page.

We'll hold a random drawing and announce the lucky winner next week.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Nursery Curriculum

One participant at my recent Yes You Can! seminar asked if I could recommend curriculum for the nursery and toddler level child. Here are several curriculum recommendations:

Standard carries curriculum for toddlers as part of their HeartShaper curriculum. Check Standard's website for other nursery level books.

First Look is a web-based curriculum for nursery through 5 year olds.

 Baby Beginnings from GospelLight

Play and Worship from Group Publishing

I love Gospel Light's slogan for their nursery material: "It's never too early to teach children about Jesus."  Research has shown that the first five years of a child's life are the most formative: emotionally, socially, spiritually and intellectual. We don't have to see the church nursery as merely a babysitting service.  Let's make every moment a teachable moment - even in our church nurseries.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Yes You Can!

This past weekend, I was privileged to teach the Yes You Can! teaching ministry seminar to area churches in Western Illinois. It was a fun-filled weekend as we discovered together how God can use our unique gifts to train others how to live the Christian faith.

During the Friday evening and Saturday morning sessions, we discussed what we will learn as we gain experience in teaching, characteristics or our learners, what a gifts-based ministry looks like, and how to construct a leson. We learned from each other as we participated in Bible learning activities and a question and answer time of some of those pesky questions a teacher wants to ask but might be afraid to admit they need to ask.

I'd love to share this seminar with other groups.  If your church is interested in hosting a Yes You Can! Seminar in your area, contact me at www.graceonparade.com/speaker/

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Grace Revisited

Several years ago, I wrote a blog about teaching children the concept of grace (see May 29th, 2009). Today, a very shortened version of that story appears in the daily devotional guide, The Upper Room. The editorial staff of the Upper Room kindly invited me to write the blog entry to accompany my devotional. In "Growing in Grace," I tell the story of another teacher who gave me the theological backdrop I needed to intellectually understand grace.

Here is the rest of the rest of the story. Shortly after taking this class, I had an opportunity to tell Dr. Jack Cottrell of the Cincinnati Christian University how thankful I was for his class: that it wasn't merely an attainment of head knowledge; instead, his explanation of grace literally set me free from the bondage of unworthiness I felt from some difficult events in my childhood.

As I told him briefly what those events were, doggonit, the man wouldn't respond to my words of thanks. Instead, he grabbed my forearm and interrupted me.

"Are you all right now?" he asked, concern and compassion tenderizing each word.

I stammered a "yeah, sure I'm ok," hating myself for the lie, and moved on quickly to finish my prepared speech of thanks. I didn't want to cry in front of Dr. Cottrell but his action was another lesson in the life-time course of God's grace. This man, this well-known writer of many books, this scholar of theology was willing to be concerned about me. He wasn't judging me because I had been such a slow learner. He wasn't saying, "What's your problem? What kind of slow learner are you?" He wasn't impatiently tapping his foot, waiting for yet another over-zealous student to finish blathering. He wasn't looking down on me for being a broken human being. Instead, as a gifted teacher, he added precept upon precept.

It was another grace-gift, another illumination of what grace is about. He taught me that as Christ has offered grace to us, we need to offer grace to others. If I can say one more time, in the third venue of the day, our actions and responses teach others the meaning of God's grace.

Giving people more than they deserve is such a foreign concept in our culture. A news commentator I usually highly respect sometimes alludes to 'karma," the concept of people getting their just desserts. No, no, I want to scream at the television. Our job is not to smugly smile when people get a return of justice. Like Jesus, our hearts need to break that they have not been delivered from the same bondage that has entrapped us. Grace is tough to understand. We are not going to "get it" just by reading the Bible. Like Dr. Cottrell and Mrs. Jackson, my third grade teacher, we need to live grace out loud so the people we influence can grow in their understanding of God's grace, acceptance and forgiveness.

Each of us, whether we teach children or not, have the responsibility and opportunity to model grace. Like me, each of us needs repetitive expressions of grace, for each time someone models grace, it acts as one more building block to the structure of my understanding of what God did for me through Jesus at the cross. Even though I have been a Christian for over 40 years, I still need reminders of God's grace - and I need daily practice in exhibiting it to others.

Who in your life needs a gift of grace today? Name a child, a non-believer and a growing Christian to whom you can exhibit grace. Then pray that God will give you a God-nudge when the moment is right to share His message and example of grace with that person.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Say Know To Teaching

"I can't teach!" I've heard that from so many church members when the plea goes forth for more children's ministry workers. Their body language is almost humorous. They actually take a step back. I can envision their hands coming up, as if to push away the plea.

Have you said that? Are you one of those who think you can't teach children?

Let me ask you another question. Do you believe that Jesus' Great Commission to "Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20)" was just for the twelve apostles or for all Christians? Because of the language throughout the rest of the New Testament (look at 2 Timothy 2:2), we can accept those marching orders were for everyone who confesses Christ. But catch the language of the rest of the passage. "Baptizing them." Okay, that means being evangelistic and leading others to the point of salvation which includes baptism. That's what most people think of when they think about the Great Commission. But look at the rest of the verse. Uh oh! " . . .Teaching them to observe all I have commanded you." TEACHING! That means every one of us needs to TEACH younger and newer believers.

Granted, each of us are uniquely gifted to reach one age group better than another. Yet the majority of us have had experience with children through raising our own. Each of us need to be involved in some way in raising up the next generation in the ways of the Lord.

Perhaps the better admission is, "I don't know how to teach. I don't even know what I need to know."

Ah! Now we are on the right track. Let me share with you what you need to know in order to be an effective teacher.

1. KNOW yourself. Know your strengths and gifts. Do what you do best.

2. KNOW your students. Learn about age characteristics and learning styles. Your teaching will be more effective if you pay attention to how they learn best.

3. KNOW your curriculum. How is each lesson organized? Are the activities appropriate for your group? Curriculum is written to meet the needs of a broad audience and cannot possibly fit every situation. What will you need to adapt to fit your group?

4. KNOW your environment. Is your teaching area inviting to today's students? What resources and supplies are available? What technology is available to you? How can you improve your environment to make it more learner-friendly?

5. KNOW your team. Jesus sent his disciples forth two by two. Paul always traveled with an entourage. God expects no one to go it alone. Where you are weak, others are strong. Know the gifts and experience of your other workers. Don't be threatened by what they can do better than you - use it. Remember: your goal is to help children learn about Jesus and you need to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.

6. Finally, most importantly, KNOW your God. That sounds almost obvious. Every Christian worker ought to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Sadly, I've seen too many teachers and other Christian workers count on their skills, not their relationship. I would far rather have one teacher dedicated and in love with Jesus Christ who is willing to learn how to be a good teacher than ten competent teachers who are not personally walking the walk. Kids learn more from what you do than what you say.

I probably almost had you hooked and now you are backing off again. Don't be afraid: none of us are perfect, we are all growing. God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) and the heart is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Stay passionate and desperately in love with Jesus, and stay humble, KNOWING you don't KNOW it all. Students want authenticity. They want to see what Jesus has done for you.

Go! Teach! And Jesus promises tobe with you. Always.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Little Things

Sometimes - many times - it's the little things that matter.

Ten days ago, my husband went in for outpatient surgery. Today, he is still in the hospital. He came home twice, only to return due to multiple complications. We've felt like we have been in a whirlpool of quicksand that has threatned to suck us under. As a minister, he has been so frustrated because he feels he has left his congregation dangling. My writing files have remained unopened on the computer. There have been days I've done well to do little more than keep my eyes open and my head on straight. Our faith has been tried; our marriage vows to love "for better, for worse" have been tested. So many people have ministered to us and carried us through this difficult time. I've wanted to represent Jesus well but have despaired at times, thinking I've let him down terribly. Right now, neither Jack or I are doing the work we feel God has called us to do.

Today, I stepped over to the church to take our secretary a video file for tomorrow's community Thanksgiving service. I found her and the youth minister discussing their inability to call a mom about a child with an earache. Impulsively, I said, "Let me take care of her. I'll find a couch for her to lie down on and I'll play Mom until the session ends." So I did. We got her to lie on her side, we talked about school, about books, about her. Pretty soon, she said she felt better and ran to join her small group.

It's the little things that count.

I walked over to a volunteer who was talking with a parent. The parent told us how her little boy was learning so much about the Bible. One day, the father, a carpenter, was griping about how difficult and unimportant his job was. The child said, "Well, Dad, I think carpenter do amazing things. After all, look what Noah did!"

You never know what children are picking up, how they are processing what we are teaching them. Our ministry is not just to children - it's to the parents as well.

As I prepared to leave, I grasped her hand. "Tell Mia," I said, "to tell her dad that Jesus was a carpenter too." Her "Ah ha" smile and the light in her eyes was reward enough. In spite of my own overwhelming burdens that siphoned my energy and held captive my time, in spite of my failure to be at my best during a difficult time, God still chose to use me in the small moments.

Proverbs 16:9 says, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."

Monday, November 07, 2011

Selecting Quality Literature for Children

Several posts back, I reviewed the children's book, "The Creation," by Janice Green. In my review, I spoke about the need for more quality children's books.

In case you missed the comment section, here's one reader's reaction:

"My best introduction to children's books was at the university when I took a class on children's literature. It gave me an overview of what was out there and which authors won awards. But that was 30 years ago. I wonder what that book list would look like today. As a Christian teacher and a parent I would be on the lookout for content in books, new and old. I guard younger children from topics which have values that I don't agree with. I read books myself first. Then with older children I would read and discuss books that presented different values. But the challenge is to find a good quantity of books that promote good values and are good literature."

She gives some wise, practical advice and makes several good points. If less books are available for children, parents and teachers will need to become more diligent in supervising what their children do read. How do you do that?

Read the book first.

Value content above visual impact.

Be discerning about the values the book is teaching.

Shield younger children from questionable values; be willing to discuss those values with older children.

Don't shield older children from books with different values but strive to provide a balance of books with the values you want your children to have.

How do you help your children become discerning of good literature?

My reader continues:"When I was home schooling I learned that reading and copying good writers would help develop the students own reading and writing skills. So, an exercise we did was to have them copy a sentence or two each day from a classic author. This was also good to do with the Bible."

Cream will always rise to the top. That is true of music and books. The best will last so look for books for your kids that have stood the test of time.

Finally, my reader concludes with a commitment that is a worthy challenge for all of us. Pray for those who write children's books. Pray that they will remember who they are writing for, that they will present God's truths and God's ways with excellence and appeal. Pray that the Lord smooth their path to publication so that quality, truth and faith-based books can once again dominate the market.