Children's Ministry Blog
Krystal's Blog will be a place to discuss current events, topics of interest and importance to the families of our church and access to helpful resources for parents all cast against a spiritual backdrop. Check it out at http://dbchildrensministry.wordpress.com.
The Missing Piece – Being
A Deuteronmy 6 Church
November 27, 2014
On Sunday, November 23rd I delivered my first sermon at Downtown Baptist Church. Below you’ll find the text of the message. Once you’ve read it, let me know what piece you can contribute in helping us be a “Deuteronomy 6 Church”.
This message is meant to expose you to the vision that I have for our Children’s Ministry, as the Children’s Director, and also start the conversation about “what is the missing piece”. Now, before I get too far into this let me clear up any misconceptions. This message isn’t just for parents. Nor only for those that currently serve in the Children’s Ministry. It’s not just for DBC members. It is for all of us. I pray that the message will resonate with each person here in some way. Next, when you hear me say “our” children that is exactly what I mean, ours. I have not birth any children. None. But I feel like I have numerous children, from my 5 years of teaching, mentoring and of course our children here at DBC. Those are my babies. I pour into them and am invested in seeing them succeed. As members of this faith community, the children that come to DBC are ours. We must nurture and cherish them accordingly.
In our current time of transition, we are making a number of adjustments and enhancements in the Children’s Ministry. We’re also experiencing some challenges. We’ve taken a big hit with the transition of many of our active families selecting to worship with other congregations. Yet, as a result, we have some awesome members that have stepped up, willing to serve in critical need areas. Our attendance has dipped. But with that I’ve challenged our volunteers to make the necessary modifications while maintaining a focus on quality. The results thus far have been great- children are excited about the awesome learning experiences that are taking place and we are effectively utilizing our resources in ways that make sense for our current size. We are building a quality, scalable program, which will allow us to be well-positioned to handle the growth that I believe will come. I shared with our Sunday School teachers back in September that at this time in our churches live I believe God is calling us to lay a foundation of quality and excellence. Therefore, when He prospers us to grow, a quality program will be awaiting our new members. In order to fully do that, we need to find some of our missing pieces.
I believe at this point in the life of our church, we are being called to be a Deuteronomy 6 Church. What is a Deuteronomy 6 Church? I’m glad you asked. Let’s turn to our text for today (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).
1 “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey. ’ 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
I. Begin with the end in mind.
Renowned leadership guru Stephen Covey suggested in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to always begin with the end in mind. Whether in education, business or any other field, good planners know to start with the end in mind. If you’re an educator, you’ve defined what success looks like for your students. For example: In many schools, as early as elementary grades you can see and hear indications of the end manifested in the posting of each classes graduation year. Also, displayed in statements such as “students will graduate prepared and inspired to thrive in college, career and community”. As a business, you establish your vision: be a best-in-class small business providing innovative and cost-effective solutions for our customers.
And in churches? What IS our end goal for our children? When our children are young adults in their twenties, who will they be? What characteristics will they possess? The very real danger that many churches, communities of faith and even some parents flirt with is the fact that they haven’t clearly defined it. And if you haven’t defined it, how will you know you’ve hit the mark? Worst yet, if no target has been defined, almost anything can be considered success and presumably any old path can get you there. As stated in Proverbs 29:18, “where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Let me suggest, we don’t have to guess at what success is for our children. God’s Word is very clear about what success is. For, we each have been given a great commission to “make disciples of men, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”. If that is our assignment then it is reasonable to deduce that our efforts in Christian education to children should produce adults that are disciples of Christ, individuals that have accepted the gift of salvation from God, through Jesus Christ, and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.
Furthermore, the indicator that these individuals are truly disciples is addressed in John 13:34-35, 34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Wow, that’s a powerful indication- all will know an individual is a disciple of Christ through the love he or she consistently has for others. This draws me back to Deuteronomy 6. In the 5th verse we are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” So, with every fiber of your being love God, through obedience, through worship, by surrendering your will to His, by fostering a rich relationship with Him. And in so doing, the fruit of your love for God will begin to naturally translate to loving one another.
Target defined. Indicator set.
II. What is the pathway?
Now that we’ve defined what the end is, how do we get there? What is the appropriate pathway to take to reach the goal? Again, God’s word is super clear on this question. John 14:6 states, and this is Jesus talking, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the one and only way. But, how do we get and keep children on the pathway? By being a “Deuteronomy 6 Church”. Deuteronomy 6:7-9 can provide some help in answering this question.
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
We are commanded to diligently teach our children the commands of God. As you would assume, diligently denotes that it is a consistent, regular teaching, repeatedly done to build a deep knowledge and understanding. A teaching with passion and urgency. I love how the passage doesn’t just stop there. Because if it did, it may lead one to believe that weekly Sunday School and worship service is enough for our children to develop into the Christ disciples we’ve identified as our end goal. No, that is not enough. We are to “talk of them when [we] sit in [our] house, when [we] walk by the way, when [we] lie down, and when [we] rise up”. That covers a lot of ground! Because Christian living doesn’t turn off Monday-Saturday, our efforts in developing dynamic disciples for Christ cannot exist within a Sunday, 9:30am-12pm window.
You know, that’s actually something our children are beginning to realize. Over the summer when we did our 6-week study of the fruit of the spirit, each week the children were assigned challenges that allowed them to apply and live out each virtue at home and in their communities. This is a learning tool that we also use with our Wednesday night program “Living Inside Out”. The weekly challenges allow the children to connect biblical principles to everyday situations, with activities that encourage family involvement and provide context for successfully living out their faith 24/7.
God’s word is a rich blueprint for godly living. It illuminates how to successfully navigate the challenges of the world and to be overcomers of sin to live victoriously through the grace that comes to us through the Holy Spirit. Also, contained within it are numerous promises that God has made to all believers. In verses 8 and 9 of Deuteronomy 6, we are reminded to keep the Word close, allowing it to be a guide for our lives but also explicitly bringing it into focus for our children- making it visible, accessible and prominent in our churches, homes, schools and communities. In so doing, we have an awesome opportunity to show our faith lived out in very practical ways.
If we take an honest look at our pathway, are we able to say that we are making it clear for our children? Of course, we’ve established that Jesus is the pathway. But I submit that not until we make the Word practical and applicable to the context of their lives, will Jesus be made explicitly clear with no missing pieces on the pathway. As on any pathway, there are makers and guideposts that help travelers navigate their paths. What would happen if we strategically and diligently act as these guideposts, providing tools and experiences at just the right time, that build Christian values and competencies that can have eternal impact?
Over the summer, one of our Family Fun Nights was a Fruit of the Spirit Scavenger Hunt here in Old Town. Children, youth, parents and grandparents joined the fun by identifying the fruits in action in our community. Here you can see a few pictures of what they found.
Ron (our youth director) and I planned this collaboratively but it was definitely God at work on that day. We developed “fruit in action” cards for the group to give to individuals that they saw displaying the virtue. This not only cemented for our children and youth the applicability of scripture in an everyday context, it also provided them an opportunity to witness to others in an authentic way by sharing the objective of the scavenger hunt and in turn their faith.
What rounded this out as a “Deuteronomy 6 Church” experience was the fact that the adults supported the successful completion of the task. How? By being present, providing clarification when needed but more importantly encouragement of living and applying their faith. What a great opportunity to have the word come to life and share with others in a low-stakes environment. Imagine how bold all of our children can be for Christ with consistent chances to apply their learning and build their faith.
Additionally, in this and all other activities that the children and youth do, your presence makes a difference. Let this go on record right now, anytime the children or youth ministries activities are in session, you are welcome to come! It is so important that our children build relationships and experience life with individuals of all ages. There is so much we can gain from each other.
Please hear me clearly, not everyone needs to lead a Sunday School class or assemble a choir (although some are well equipped to do so). But each of us are uniquely suited for some level of involvement in the lives of our children, whether directly or indirectly. The key is finding the right place to plug-in.
My family and I are avid supporters of breast cancer awareness. This is directly related to the fact that my mother died of breast cancer 9 ½ years ago. One bold way that we show our support is by participating in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk, where you walk 60 miles over the course of 3 days. As you may imagine, this is no small feat. It takes training, drive and courage. Although many train months for the event, the true test comes when you walk the course. The first day starts with an opening ceremony, which gets you pumped for the journey ahead. Often, family, friends and other breast cancer supporters attend this public event to celebrate the decision we’ve made to participate in what others might consider crazy, unnecessary or simply a waste of time. But, as we embark on this journey, they are there cheering us on as we take our first steps. The first few miles are doable, you’re still excited about the decision you’ve made and clearly remember why you joined the race.
Along the route you’ll find event staff- specifically oddly dressed crossing guards whose one goal is to make sure you cross safely. No other agenda, just want to ensure you remain safe and on the right course. Their motivations for assisting are varied- perhaps a loved one died of breast cancer and they feel an inner desire to support the cause anyway they can. A few are survivors. They understand the challenges of the journey but know the joy of overcoming and want to help you do the same. Also on the route, are pit stops. This is where we fill up, regain nutrients and for those that aren’t so lucky, have our blisters tended to by First Aid. Here there’s temporary solace, a time to relax and share some light-hearted conversation. Once reenergized, it’s back to the route.
There are signs along the streets, strategically placed by volunteers who have previously walked the path. They alert walkers to various dangers along the way- narrow sidewalks, construction zones, winding paths. There are also alerts for how much farther a pit stop, lunch or camp is. When the signs are few and far in between, you may see residents encouraging you, “Not much farther to the next stop. You can do it!” What relief comes over you when at the end of days 1 and 2 you see a sea of pink tents, signifying your home-away-from-home is waiting, bubbling with fun, complete with games, music, food and if you’re lucky, encouraging notes from loved ones.
Day 2 is the hardest, for it is the longest stretch of the walk, the novelty of porter potties and peanut butter and jelly snack bites have worn off, along with some of the traction of your sneakers. Knowing this, the event staff have taken extra care in positioning pit stops and cheering stations at some of the most challenging parts of the course.
But by Day 3, the end is in sight- there’s less than 20 miles left to go! Your burdens somehow feel lighter and the cheering from supporters seems to get louder. And although our feet ache more than we’ve ever experienced before, we continue because others on the route offer encouragement and refuse to leave even one of their fellow walkers behind. Then, one by one, we reach the finish line, where loved ones and so many people we’ve never met before are awaiting our arrival. Whether first or last, it doesn’t matter, because you’ve finished and there is a reward that awaits you.
The experience that I described is similar in nature to the Christian walk each of us takes. In the case of our children, when they begin on the pathway, the excitement is high. But, as we well know, it doesn’t take long for life to get rough. Dangers come from all directions. What if there is no one to help guide them safely across? What about those times that they need just a bit of rest or rejuvenation, who is providing for these needs, whether physical, emotional or spiritual? I suggest, just like in the walk, whether directly or indirectly, there are so many vital roles to fill and if even one piece is missing, the pathway becomes less clear and perhaps even harder to stay on.
III. So, what is the missing piece?
That brings me to my final point. What is missing here at DBC to make the pathway, that is Jesus, clear to our children? I don’t have the answer to this one. But I know someone who does! I challenge you to reflect more deeply about this during your daily quiet time with God and seek His guidance in this area. Be forewarned, what He reveals may very well be something you will be able to directly address. But, I guarantee if you earnestly seek Him, He’ll have an answer.
Here is a blank puzzle piece. This represents the missing piece on our pathway to developing disciples that have an unquenchable love for God and others. Perhaps the missing piece is direct contact with children, such as serving as helping with Children’s Church during the 11 o’clock hour. Or, it could be indirectly, such as serving as a parent mentor. It may deal with security, such as monitoring hallways during a service, or it could be adding the specific needs of our children to your personal or small group prayer lists. It could be continuing to serve where you are but with a fresh perspective, renewed energy and zeal. It may also mean transitioning to a new role that corresponds with the phase of life you are currently in. It could be taking a leap of faith and plugging into Children’s Ministry for the first time. Ever. I believe that God will honor our diligence in seeking Him and reveal or affirm how each of us can use our piece to make the pathway clearer.
Whatever you discern the missing piece to be, whether seemingly big or small, it is all important. It’s like a puzzle, you cannot enjoy the beauty of the picture when a piece is missing. No, each piece matters. Thinking about ourpathway, can you imagine what can happen if there’s a hole? The end goal- the salvation of our children, is too important to allow these gaps to exist and go unfilled. So, I challenge you today, seek God’s guidance and then write down what you can do to help us truly be a Deuteronomy 6 Church. Then, come see me so we can work together in filling the hole with your missing piece.
Questions? Comments? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.