Blink of an Eye

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Back to School Time!! Oh, wait, no big deal for me or so I thought. My youngest starts his sophomore year in college. So somewhat of a big deal for all that Back To School hype. My other son starts his second year as a  para and this year as a head coach for Branson Schools (7th grade boys basketball. Sports will be addressed in this series.) Okay, so I missed all the back to school sales. Still, nothing like it used to be when sending all the kids off for the first day of school. My daughter-in-law begins her first day of teaching on Monday. Okay, little bigger deal this Back to School thing. My daughter begins teaching in an inner-city high school in Dallas, TX, on Monday. Alright, God I get it! Assume the Back To School prayer position. (I did miss the no sales tax weekend. . . there is always next year.) SO IT IS A BIG DEAL!!

It is a big deal for all those first-time kindergartener and an even bigger deal for all those parents. I have been there–tapping into the CIA, FBI, and  the best source of all –EMI: Experienced Moms Initiative — to find out about teachers. (Don’t worry names have been changed to protect the innocent.) When I get those phone calls about teachers, I go into Joe Friday mode (For you young Moms look up Dragnet.) For the kids it is more about the cool, new backpack (BTW: Let’s check back next year and see if One Direction backpacks are the best seller or even if we remember who was One Direction.)

I remember back to taking pictures of my kids on that first day of school. This ritual was met with more and more resistance as the years went by. Now, I have to wait for holidays or weddings to snap a picture of my kids together and all dressed up. The nice thing is my family is growing. I mention a daughter-in-law, but really she is my daughter. We have, also, added a new son  and soon another son (November).

(Did I mention I am available as a wedding coordinator? I don’t come cheap. After all, our family has had three weddings in the past 18 months.)

Let me remind families, prayer is a wonderful aspect of our every day life. God’s Word tells us to pray without ceasing -1 Thessalonians 5:17. I can spout off several cliché’s and scriptures here. God won’t give you anything you can’t handle, all things work to His Glory, etc. God gave your child the school, teacher, and classmates for a reason. Be sure to find the ministry and blessings you may be missing while complaining or wishing you had that other teacher.

It all happened in the Blink of an Eye after I emphatically vowed it would not happen that way. Sorry, parents. That is the way it goes. However, we can make the most of that Blink. This series is going to address all the small things of life that happen in the blink of an eye but can turn kids into Godly young men and women.

And that is my 2 cents worth.

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Ministry Burnout Prevention Plan

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Statistically, youth and children’s ministers have short career spans.   Various studies can verify this fact.  So you can choose George Barna, Lifeway, or Group to discover for yourself the life and times of vocational pastors.

Many times, because children’s ministers are always engaging children with fun and high energy activities, people do not realize they have personal lives and sometime baggage just like everyone else.

The following is a plan to help prevent burnout.

Personal Burnout Prevention Plan

Be careful – you may be at risk of burnout.

            No one person is free from ministry burnout. Burnout can come in various forms. Recently, we have seen pastors fall to the temptation of adultery, pornography, financial wrongdoings, and other illegal and immoral activities. This can be a form of burnout. Another form of burnout may have ministers or pastors choosing a different career path.

A simple plan to avoid burnout is to be sure your focus is where it should be in your personal life—1. God 2. Family 3. Ministry

1.  Stay in God’s Word.

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11, ESV).

            I am blessed abundantly when I read God’s Word. I am blessed with specific gifts when I study God’s Word. The depth of His redemptive story can keep me focused on the blessing of life.

2. Family

“18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18, ESV).

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and 52gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25)

            This step begins with staying connected to your spouse. This plan is specific for me. I enjoy being with my husband. More than spending time together, we enjoy serving together. Occasionally, we serve in each other’s ministry area. Spend time with family. If children are involved, be sure to be available to your own children.

3. Identity in Christ

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Colossians 3:23-24, ESV).

My identity is in Christ and not what others think of me. I have to continually pray for strength in this area. My daily prayer is that I will follow God’s Will for my life and serve Him. Do not be jealous of the work of others. Read Titus 3. You should do everything as to glory of God.

4. Health

“If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple”( 1 Corinthians 3:17, ESV).

            Exercise has been an important part of my life. Running is a release for me. I like the concept of always trying to make myself a better runner. This is a time when I can be alone in prayer and with my thoughts. I feel better about myself when I feel healthy. I also try to eat right. As I get older, staying on top of all aspects of my health is important. I am in children’s ministry and keeping up with kids and activities requires staying healthy and staying in shape.

5. Relaxation, Fun, Retreat, and Joy

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, ESV).

            A soap commercial once said “Calgon, take me away.” We must get away. We do not run away from life, but we must have fun. One analogy recently shared by a colleague is we are like a cup that is continually being filled with water. Life, people, circumstances, etc. come along and poke holes in our cup. The more holes poked in our cup, the faster the water drains out. We need to be sure the pouring in from God stays ahead of the draining out by life’s circumstances. Fellowship with others, find hobbies, use your vacation and personal days are highly encouraged. Always follow and fulfill your dreams.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ESV).

This is a plan for those in ministry. Those who are served by vocational ministers can help prevent burnout by taking out their  children’s minister to lunch, dinner, breakfast, giving chocolates, massage gift certificates, Starbuck’s gift cards, weekend getaways, and the list could go on and on and on.

And that is my 2 Cents worth

Choosing a Bible For Your Child

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Choosing a Bible

http://childrensministry.com/articles/childrens-bible-review

This article does a good job of describing age appropriate Bibles and comparing various Bibles. Warning to the Children’s Illustrate Bible from http://www.dk.com. I found several unfavorable reviews for this Bible. This company is not a Christian publishing company. This may be a book to be used more for a factual resource for timelines and maps, but not as a Bible for children to understand God’s redemptive story.

Another important aspect of choosing a Bible is the translation. The following link is to a Bible comparison chart.

http://www.cokesbury.com/FreeDownloads/BibleTransGuide.pdf

Is a child’s Bible selection important? Does it really matter? Can they just use one of the parent’s Bible? YES, YES, NO!

Preschoolers need to see the Bible, touch the Bible and interact with the Bible. I had never thought of preschoolers needing access to the actual Bible, but it makes sense if we want them to use it at home regularly and then introduce usage to them. Preschoolers should be allowed access to the Bible. Sometimes we do not want our little ones to have access to Bibles in fear they will ruin the Bible. God’s Word is all about His redemptive plan. God’s Good News is the Gospel. This Good News is Jesus-John 1:1. Let’s remember what Jesus said about keeping children from him-Matthew 19:13-15. We should encourage access to Jesus and what better way than through the actual Word. Physical interaction with God’s Word can encourage lifetime access and usage.

Storybook Bibles for preschoolers are a resource like any book a child may have in their collection. Be sure children understand the storybook Bibles are story books and not the Bible.  A child feels special having a Bible just like adults. They may not be able to read it or use it, but they get used to carrying a Bible to church (Pet Peeve: Not bringing Bibles to church. This goes for adults and children.) Christian educators should use the Bible when telling stories from the Bible even with preschoolers. This helps to establish the foundation for kids to understand God’s Word is truth, why He gave us the Bible, and how to use the Bible as a resource for every day living.

Pet Peeve #2 is not using the Bible at home. Children should see parents studying God’s Word at church, but more importantly at home. The Bible Children should be allowed to follow along with parents, teachers, or adults in their very own Bible.

Parents need information about the lesson and how to reinforce the Bible teaching at home. Parents are the ultimate resource in the spiritual development of children! The church needs to include parents. Often we forget to let parents know what their child is learning in class. No matter what the age, we cannot rely on children to communicate with their parents what was learned in class. Preschoolers learn by repetition. The repetition of a Biblical aim should be reinforced during the lesson but also at home. Children do listen to their parents and what their parents reinforce and teach at home is another way to secure children are growing in and toward their faith.

No matter what age or how many Bibles a child receives in a lifetime, the occasion should be celebrated.  Ideas when giving a child a Bible include a special dinner, date night, a testimony from a parent or influential adult, and always a prayerful time about using God’s Word to help on the spiritual journey. God’s Word is special. We should treat it as such.

Bibles on ipods, iphones, and ipads is a discussion worthy of blog for another time.

And that’s my 2 cents worth.

 

Book Review-“Parenting in the Pew”- by Robbie Castleman

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Parenting in the Pew

Family Resource Evaluation

Dr. Robbie Castleman is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.She is married to theReverend D. Breck Castleman, and they have two grown sons. She is also a speaker. She has been a guest speaker on this topic at our church.

Parenting in the Pew addresses the importance of instructing and guiding children, preschoolers to teenagers, in worship. Dr. Castleman introduces a concept somewhat foreign in today’s worship services–children participating in ‘adult’ worship with their parents. She bases the importance of this guidance on the scriptures Jesus used to show the importance of the presence and praise of children: Matthew 18:14, Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16.

            The first concept addressed is in regards to worship. Worship is not for us, but for God. God commands our worship. The book is to help parents train children in worship.

            Dr. Castleman addresses the hurdles and obstacles parents encounter during this training. One obstacle comes in the form of other members of the church may not understand and appreciate the endeavor to train children. She points back to Pharisees and their concern with the Law over God’s love. She continually reminds the reader worship is not about us, but for God. Ill-prepared parents are another reason children are trained by volunteers, who may or may not be any more qualified. Heart, home, dressing, tithing, and attitude preparation should begin Saturday night. Encountering God with your children is essential. You can’t just give them coloring books and work sheets and anticipate them encountering God during worship. Parents should be with their children guiding them in the understanding of their faith in worship, which includes the teenage years.

This book offers suggestions how to approach the worship director, pastor, and others involved in the worship process to aid in the training of children. Dr. Castlemen offers advice for prayer, confession, baptism, Lord’s Supper and worship in song. This book is the expanded edition. The appendix address the issues of children who are hyperactive and programming for children’s church for seeker churches.

Parenting in the Pew gave new insight to the value of training children in worship. Many of Dr. Castlemen’s ideas for helping to train children in worship would benefit some adults. Adults should learn to take care of physical issues before attending worship so they do not have to be excused during worship, which can be a distraction to all. She uses scripture to show the value God places on children and how the faith of a child should teach us how to worship and come in to God’s presence. 

The book touched the surface of the issue of training children in worship. The book was written so that parents could read and apply the methods. This book is an easy read and has only 139 pages. The suggestions in the book are basic and simple to apply. Basic applications range from common sense to respect of others. The applications, also, encourage adult participation and worship enhancement. There is a study guide included so the book can be used as a group teaching tool.

Stages of development in children; cognitive, affective, physical, social and emotional could have been addressed with a detailed look at how to train children at various ages and stages of development. Dr. Castlemen suggests working with those responsible for worship to help with parenting in the pew. She also gives insight to the difference in training between children and teens.

There are some theological issues addressed in the book in regards to the sacraments–

Dr. Castlemen discusses infant baptism which does not lend to everyone’s beliefs. Dr. Castlemen puts conditions on Communion that some adults do not follow. She suggests children be mature enough in their faith to participate in Communion with other believers.   

Dr. Castleman’s examples given in the book are confirmed in her own life with her two sons.  Her testimony of training children to worship is accentuated by the fact she parented in the pew by herself while her husband preached from the pulpit. She also used feedback from various parenting seminars based on Parenting in the Pew to address the issue of over-active children and children’s programming for seeker-friendly churches. She makes several good points and recommendations in regards to over-active children. The most important suggestion, which can be applied to all children, is “to ask the Lord to help you see your child through His eyes” (page 135). 

Dr. Castleman emphasizes the importance of training children for worship during any program you may implement. She suggests for seeker-friendly churches that children are trained for a time and then incorporated into worship with their parents. This concept could revolutionize children’s worship and more importantly family worship. She discourages the use of children’s worship as an excuse for parents to get away from their kids. Rather this time should be looked at as an opportunity to be together during the most important time of a family’s faith development-worship. Dr. Castleman makes a comment in the book that God smiles when He is the recipient of worship from a family together in corporate worship. This concept may meet with resistance in many churches and by many parents.   

Families should also remember that worship is not limited to Sunday morning. Worship is finding those God moments in everyday life and giving Him the glory in all that we say and do. Children should see parents worship God in their everyday lives, as well.

The title, Parenting in the Pew, indicates this book would be for parents. However this book and the commitment to train children in worship represented by this book; would benefit the church as a whole. Parents are ultimately responsible for the training of their children, but in the case of training children in worship a commitment of family and the family of God is required and emphasized in this book. Castleman refers to worship as the one thing we get to do together forever. 

And that is my 2 cents worth.

 

Developing Lay Leaders in the Church

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Just began another year of ministry. Recruiting is the least favorite part of my job.

The equation of 1+1+1+1+1=the body of Christ fulfilling the mission of the church—furthering the Kingdom of God. Even though the scriptures break down the gifts into categories, the culmination of those categories equals the bigger picture as found in a math equation. The passage found in Ephesians because the passage addresses many gifts that can be found in various individuals.  This scripture is a reminder to stay focused on the calling to all believers using the gifts given to some+some+some+some+some=the whole of believers.

This scripture does not outline a program or denomination. This passage of scripture does mention unity in verse 13 which takes a team of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The task at hand outlined in the last of verse 13 will not be quick or easy. These are all mentioned by the author Sue Mallory in Equipping Church (Mallory, 2001, pp. 25-26).

As mentioned by Mallory the vision needs to be cast and remain the focus. Churches may have different mottos or marketing lines. However, the end result should all be the same. A church should be kingdom-focused. A kingdom-focused church “exists to transform unbelievers into Christlike believers and to mature these believers into kingdom multipliers of the message of Christ” (Mims, 2003, p. 16). The scripture passage in Ephesians mentions the end result found in verse 13, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (NIV).

Christ tells us how to follow him in Mark 8:34, “then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (NIV).  If we truly are Christians or Christ followers, he wants us to follow him daily and not just on Sunday. This calls all of us into ministry. “Ministry is meeting another person’s need in the name of Jesus, expressed as service to people inside the church family and expressed as missions to those outside the church with the resources God provides” (Mims, 2003, p. 83). Ministry to others is emphasized by Jesus in the two greatest commandments in that we should “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38, Mark 12:30-31, and Luke 10:27 NIV).

Ministry responsibilities need to be given away. Vocational ministry or paid ministry staff does not have to be the end all in ministry. “A paycheck does not automatically make one person’s ministry more worthy or valuable than another person with similar gifts who does his or her ministry without receiving pay” (Mallory, 2001, p. 44). We should never devalue ministry that God has called each of us to in scripture. Ministry responsibilities show value over ministry tasks. As paid staff of a church be sure to share your ministry and not to be prideful over what God has called you to do as your vocation. The church needs to recognize and value unpaid staff volunteers. Get away from committees and go to ministry teams. Let lay people take lead of ministry teams. Give them office space, business cards, email address, and recognition.

In Matthew 4, “as Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (NIV), Some of the skills Jesus used are  mentioned by Mallory on page 47. “1. Ask personally rather than rely on announcements. 2. Develop strategic recruiting partnerships” (Mallory, 2001). Jesus personally asked his disciples to join him. He recruited business partners and members of the same family. Couples in  ministry is a great way to utilize members of the same family. The wife and husband team can minister cooperatively and individually.

This refreshing idea of an age-old concept, ministry accomplished by lay leaders, will be seen as change. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV). Mallory discusses the difference in language used to “promote and reinforce the mind-set of ministry and transformation”   (Mallory, 2001, p. 48).  The language of ministry is more honoring to the lay leaders. An example of secular language is “do you delegate” versus the ministry language of “do you share ministry?” Change needs to take place to continue to further the Kingdom. “Authentic change will affect everything in a church, just as it does in a person” (Mallory, 2001, p. 57). This change needs to be God-focused and God-led. God will direct the hearts, souls, and minds for change to be authentic, positive, and successful. The scripture passage to this idea of authentic change is “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”   (2 Corinthians 5:17)!   Keep your mind on Christ.

The whole church needs to take back the mission of the church–furthering the Kingdom of God–and not just the staff of the church. This is not to say the only ministry to do is in the church, but ministry in the marketplace, as well. Marketplace ministry will be a discussion for another time, another blog.

And that is my 2 cents worth.

Resources:

Holy Bible-NIV

Mallory, Sue. Equipping Church. Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 2001.

Thoughts on the Age of Accountability- Conclusion

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CONCLUSION:

            The first step in understanding the age of accountability is to know there is no certain numerical age in which a child graduates into the age of accountability. It has been said  children are the future leaders of the church. However, let us not forget they are the church of today. Children are as much a part of the faith journey as adults. Children get excited about their love for Jesus. They want to tell others at school, on the ball field, or on the school bus. “One kid leading another kid to the foot of the Cross for a life-changing encounter with Jesus is one of the most prolific and effective means of evangelism in the nation”(Barna. Pg. 49). Faith can begin early in a child’s life, but parents and the church need to be involved in the process. We cannot just leave their spiritual development up to chance. Children can posses the faith necessary for salvation. There is no age at which we can automatically pronounce their readiness to make this decision. Many factors play a role in the accountability of children. Instead of looking for a numerical ‘age’ of accountability, children’s faith should be based on their understanding of God’s Word and why He loves us so much that He gave His one and only son, Jesus, in our place for the redemption of our sins. Until that understanding parents and loved ones can be assured God loves the little children and protects them in His arms of love. “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, All are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world” (George Frederick Root, Clare Herbert Woolston).
And that is my 2 cents worth.


Resources:

Barna, George. Transforming Children into Spirituala Champions. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2003.

George Frederick Root, Clare Herbert Woolston. “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” 1864.

Thoughts on the Age of Accountability (Part 6) – Age of Accountability Factors

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AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY FACTORS:

            There are indicators to look for and questions to ask when it comes to a child’s age of accountability. Scripture is important in understanding a child’s readiness to make the most important decision of their life – to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.  The most important part of leading a child to Christ is to remember you do nothing to make it happen. The Holy Spirit prompts the child and moves them to a decision.

Factors to Consider:

*Developmental Maturity                                                                                                                                                                                                                        *Level of Intelligence                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 *Spiritual Training                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       *Home Environment                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *ABOVE ALL…God’s Timing

There are some signs of accountability of which to be aware  when talking with children about making a decision to be a Christ follower. Children must understand all of them. But more importantly they should understand there is only way one to be with God in heaven-“Jesus told them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, HCSB).

Sin is a church word.  Remember the influential factors of spiritual training and home environment.  Some of these kids, including churched kids, may not understand this concept. A child must realize she has sinned. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, HCSB) including children. Children may understand sin, but their egocentric ways make them more prone to point out the sins of others. Children should realize sin disappoints God because it is in direct disobedience to God. Therefore their sin separates them from God. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, HCSB).  This is where religious educators should be careful not to scare kids when talking about hell and being separated from God.  Do not use the fear factor, however God wants us to always be with Him so He provided a way and that way is …Jesus. Jesus was sinless while He was here on earth.  He always obeyed God and did not ‘sin’ against God.  He is the only man to ever do that. “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, HCSB).

If a child is not ready, don’t feel like a failure or that the child rejected Christ.  More than likely the child is just not ready.  You are a seed planter. The Holy Spirit convicts, not you. Home environment is important. Developing a biblical worldview in children is an important focus. One must start young so the biblical worldview is solidly in place during childhood but continues into adulthood. He gives two paths to moral decision making—“the bottom line is that a person’s moral foundation is either based upon Christian spirituality and God’s Word, or it is based on worldly perspectives” (Barna, 2003, p. 53).  However, we should remember with God all things are possible.

The following is a list of questions to ask children. Remember to avoid “churchy” words like justification, sanctification, judgment, etc. Words like grace and faith can be difficult, as well.

  1. Sin
    1. What is sin?
    2. Who sins?
    3. What are some things people do that God does not like?
    4. Do you ever do anything that God does not like?
    5. What are some things you do that God does not like?
    6. Does God ever sin?
    7. What would we do to heaven if God let us there with sin?
    8. If God cannot let us into heaven with sin in our lives, where are we going to go when we die?
    9. Does God still love us in spite of our sin?
  2.  God’s special plan
    1.  Who is the world? (John 3:16)
    2. Do you know about the special plan God has so all people (sinners) can have their sins can be marked out (forgiven) so we can live with Him forever in heaven?
    3. Who is Jesus?
    4. What did Jesus do for us?
    5. Just because Jesus died for the sins of the world, does that mean that everyone automatically goes to heaven?
    6. What things must you do if you want to get to heaven God’s special way?
    7. Admit, Believe, and Confess: This is God’s way.
    8. Can you do one of those really well and still get to heaven?  What about two of them?
    9. If you were to die today where would you go?  Why?
    10. Have you done the three things God requires?
    11. Does all of this make sense?  Is there anything you do not understand?
  3.  Your Choice
    1.  Would you like to do the things God requires, so you can go to heaven?
    2. What does God want you to do right now?

                Some of these questions may be intimidating. Let’s start with a definition of sin that children can understand.  Sin is the bad things you do because you have chosen your way instead of God’s way.  Since we need to repent of our sins, repentance is another word children will need explained. For children,  repentance can be described as turning away from your sin and choosing to follow Jesus. Some other terms that are commonly used:

  • Saved – When you have asked God to forgive your sin and asked Jesus into your life as Savior and Lord.
  • Born Again – When Jesus becomes your Savior and Lord; when you are born into God’s family.
  • Give your Heart to Jesus – When you ask Jesus to come into your life to be your Savior and Lord.
  • Come Forward – When you walk to the front of the church during a special time of a Worship Service and talk to someone about asking Jesus to be your Savior and Lord or to let others know about a previous decision to ask Jesus to be your Savior and Lord.

 

And that is my 2 cents worth.



Resources:

Holy Bible, Holman Christian Study Bible

Barna, George. Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2003.

Thoughts on the Age of Accountability (Part 5) – Children’s View of God

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CHILDREN AND SALVATION:

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10, HCSB)

            Do children posses what it takes to express a faith in Jesus Christ? Definitely yes! “Our children must one day make the faith their own and give themselves to God, but God graciously draws them toward that day,” (Stonehouse. Pg. 131). Children are able to desire a relationship with God when prompted by the Holy Spirit. Man cannot understand the ways of God. God loves children and wants the best for them. He protected the children in the Old Testament and spoke against those who would try to harm children in the New Testament. “Jesus didn’t talk just to adults. He interacted with children during his ministry years and said things about them that we should consider as we think about our work with children,” (Keeley, pg. 37). Many of the interactions Jesus had with children had to do with healing. Jesus also used children as an example for adults to see how they should live their spiritual life. God even says children believe in Him. “But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!” (Matthew 18:6, HCSB).

Stage 1

Intuitive-Projective This is the stage of preschool children in which fantasy and reality often get mixed together. However, during this stage, our most basic ideas about God are usually picked up from our parents and/or society.

Stage 2

Mythic-Literal When children become school-age, they start understanding the world in more logical ways. They generally accept the stories told to them by their faith community but tend to understand them in very literal ways. [A few people remain in this stage through adulthood.]

Stage 3

Synthetic-Conventional Most people move on to this stage as teenagers. At this point, their life has grown to include several different social circles and there is a need to pull it all together. When this happens, a person usually adopts some sort of all-encompassing belief system. However, at this stage, people tend to have a hard time seeing outside their box and don’t recognize that they are “inside” a belief system. At this stage, authority is usually placed in individuals or groups that represent one’s beliefs. [This is the stage in which many people remain.]

Stage 4

Individuative-Reflective This is the tough stage, often begun in young adulthood, when people start seeing outside the box and realizing that there are other “boxes”. They begin to critically examine their beliefs on their own and often become disillusioned with their former faith. Ironically, the Stage 3 people usually think that Stage 4 people have become “backsliders” when in reality they have actually moved forward.

Stage 5

Conjunctive Faith It is rare for people to reach this stage before mid-life. This is the point when people begin to realize the limits of logic and start to accept the paradoxes in life. They begin to see life as a mystery and often return to sacred stories and symbols but this time without being stuck in a theological box.

Stage 6

Universalizing Faith Few people reach this stage. Those who do live their lives to the full in service of others without any real worries or doubts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Chart of James Fowler’s Stages of Faith.”   Table 2

James Fowler‘s stages of faith development helps to shed light on not just the cognitive but the faith development progress of children. His research is developed along with the research of Kohlberg’s and Erik Erikson’s research in child development. The chart is seen previously.

Fowler’s stages of faith development would indicate the time of accountability would be in Stage 3-Synthetic-Conventional-the early teen years. However, Fowler’s development and other development specialists have done years of research and published many articles. However, the research cannot account the hand of God. There are other issues that take a role in the faith development of children. “The burden of faith formation clearly rests on the quality of parenting and the availability of a healthy religious environment for the nurturance of basic trust” (Ratcliff, pg. 103).

And that is my 2 cents worth.

 

Resources:

Ratcliff, Donald, ed. Handbook of Preschool Religious Education. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press, Inc. , 1998.

Stonehouse, Catherine. Joining chidlren on the Spiritual Journey. Grand Rapids, MI: BridgePoint Books, 1998.

Robert J. Keeley. Helping Our Chidlren Grow in Faith. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books of Baker Publishing Group, 2008).

“Chart of James Fowler’s Stages of Faith.” Useful Charts. April 14, 2011. http://www.usefulcharts.com/psychology/james-fowler-stages-of-faith.html (accessed July 23, 2011).

Holy Bible, HCSB

Thoughts on the Age of Accountability (Part 4) – Children’s View of God

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CHILDREN’S VIEW OF GOD:

Since children have knowledge of God and are born into sin,  when do they develop that sense of right and wrong?   Children are still sinners because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We do not have to teach children to hurt others, to lie, or be disobedient to parents. As we teach them to do what is right, we are also teaching them sin. Children need to understand early on in life that actions have consequences. However, children are not subject to the ‘law’ or accountability in the spiritual sense.  Paul sums this up in Romans 7 beginning with verse 8, “And sin seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me.” This emphasizes the point children must understand they are doing wrong in order for them to understand they need a Savior.

There is a time when our faith is humble, willing, and alive. This time is before know better—as children. Our faith is not yet comprised by the cynicism we learn from the world, which is just another result of original sin. Jesus uses this example to show adults what their spiritual life and faith life should look like. “I assure you,” He (Jesus) said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Some children know right from wrong early in life, but do they understand this sin is against God?   Even though children are born into sin, they need to understand what sin is and that it goes against God. “Apparently teaching children what is right or wrong is not sufficient to guarantee that children will act on what they have been taught is moral” (Stonehouse. Pg. 94).

According to Kohlberg’s Levels of Moral Reasoning chart as depicted in Table 1 listed below, moral development under the age of six is based on a fear of punishment and desire for rewards. Also, it is not until children are in the high school years; they base their decisions on what is best for the cause or social good and not until early adulthood moral decisions are based on the rights of other individual persons. This is the time when children begin to own their faith. Leaving their faith and/or moral development to chance until then will not ensure they will develop into morally conscious adults. “Because everything is ultimately a spiritual and moral issue, the more intentional and clear minded we are regarding their spiritual development, the better off they will be for the duration of their lives” (Barna, Pg. 32).  This development begins in Stage 0. They understand there is a consequence, good or bad to their actions. This moral development should be partnered with spiritual formation. “A growing love for Jesus causes them to want to please him and to be like him. This gives them a reason to be moral” (Stonehouse. Pg. 123).

Spiritual formation and instruction from the Bible about God and His love for us will help children to do what is right based on the love of Jesus and not because of a punishment of Hell. This can be unhealthy spiritually. However, living a life of love as indicated in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us,” (HCSB) instructs us to the ‘why’ as given in the original command Jesus mentions as the second greatest commandment-“The second is like it; Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27 (HCSB).

STAGE 0: EGOCENTRIC
REASONING (preschool years – around age 4)
What’s Right: I should get my own way.
Reason to be good: To get rewards and avoid punishments.
STAGE 1: UNQUESTIONED
OBEDIENCE (around kindergarten age)
What’s Right: I should do what I’m told.
Reason to be good: To stay out of trouble.
STAGE 2: WHAT’S-IN-IT-FOR ME FAIRNESS (early elementary grades) What’s Right: I should look out for myself but be fair to those who are fair to me.
Reason to be good: Self-interest: What’s in it for me?
STAGE 3: INTERPERSONAL
CONFORMITY (middle-to-upper elementary grades and early-to-mid teens)
What’s Right: I should be a nice person and live up to the expectations of people I know and care about.
Reason to be good: So others will think well of me (social approval) and I can think well of myself (self-esteem)
STAGE 4: RESPONSIBILITY TO “THE SYSTEM”(high-school years or late teens) What’s Right: I should fulfill my responsibilities to the social or value system I feel part of.
Reason to be good: To keep the system from falling apart and to maintain self-respect as somebody who meets my obligations.
STAGE 5: PRINCIPLED CONSCIENCE(young adulthood) What’s Right: I should show the greatest possible respect for the rights and dignity of every individual person and should support a system that protects human rights.
Reason to be good: The obligation of conscience to act in accordance with the principle of respect for all human beings.

*Stages 1 through 5 are adapted from Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning as described in Kohlberg (1975, 1978, 1981); Stage 0 is adapted from William Damon (1977) and Robert Selman (1980). TABLE 1

RESOURCES:

Barna, George. Transforming Children into Spirituala Champions. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2003.

“Chart of James Fowler’s Stages of Faith.” Useful Chartsl. April 14, 2011. http://www.usefulcharts.com/psychology/james-fowler-stages-of-faith.html (accessed July 23, 2011).

Stonehouse, Catherine. Joining chidlren on the Spiritual Journey. Grand Rapids, MI: BridgePoint Books, 1998.

The Holy Bible (HCSB)

Thoughts on the Age of Accountability (Part 3) – Created in God’s Image

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CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE:

“For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16-17, HCSB).

            God created us because He is a God of love. God did not need help from mankind. He is all-knowing. Nor did God need us for our relationship with Him. God has a relationship, one that is complicated to understand, within the Trinity. Once He created man, though, He desired to establish a loving relationship with His creation. Nothing about God said He needed creation or mankind. Creation was, however, planned, created, and well-executed not haphazardly thrown together.  “Instead, given God’s interior life that overflows with regard for others, we might say creation is an act that was fitting for God” (Plantinga. Pg. 23).

Man was a part of this creation. Scripture tells us in Genesis that God created man in His own image. “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female” (Genesis 1:27. HCSB).

Plantinga, in his book, Engaging God’s World-A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living,  discusses man’s creation in God’s image as found in scripture. First, humans have authority over creation. God gave man the responsibility to take care of His creation. “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” Secondly, we are to live in love with others. This is a command from Jesus, who lives in loving communion within the Trinity. This is our example for living and loving others. Lastly, “we image God by conforming to Jesus Christ in suffering and death, the ultimate examples of self-giving love” (Plantinga. Pg. 33-34).

What does this mean for adults and for children? Since we are created in God’s image and created to love and be in relationship with Him, we are also created to want God.

                                                    What Augustine knew is that human beings want God. In fact, humans want union with God:                                                                                                                they want to get “in” God, as Jesus prays in John 17:21. Until it’s suppressed,                                                                                                                                   this longing for God arises in every human soul because it is part of the                                                                                                                                                             soul’s standard equipment” (Plantinga. Pg. 6).

At one time man had the “good” life-literally. God created a perfect world, perfect animal kingdom, and perfect humans. The reason mankind understands suffering and sorrow is because he knows deep down there was and is something better. Suffering on behalf of one thing can be looked at longing for what God intended. God intended for us to be perfect and sinless. Gregory of Nyssa is summed up in by Alister McGrath by saying “this ‘Good’ – which surpasses all human thought, and which we once possessed – is such that human nature also seemed to be ‘good’ in some related form, in that it was fashioned as the most exact likeness and in the image of its prototype”(McGrath. Pg. 412.)

For children the same longing and hope is there as for adults. Even though most developmental experts on children will say that children are not capable of abstract thought, do not discount the Creator. “Those who study the spirituality of children discover the young child’s heart is naturally open to God” (Stonehouse, Pg. 35). God created us, including children, in His image plus God has a special place in His heart for babies. In the Old Testament children are referred to as “innocents”. “It doesn’t mean that they are not fallen; it doesn’t mean that they are not sinful — it does mean that God mercifully treats them as “innocent” in spite of that, and He has to exercise grace to do that, just as He exercises grace to save those who believe” (MacArthur. The Age of Accountability. Grace to You. 2010. accessed July 20, 2010). God said that we should train them up in the way they should go. “Teach a youth about the way he should go even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 HCSB). As soon as a child can come to know Christ and commit and be obedient to him, the blessings will abound. The important thing to remember is that no matter what the age, children should be encouraged to continue to ask questions and to have those questions answered.

In her book, The Religious Potential of The Child, Sofia Cavalletti sites several instances of children who were not raised in an environment of religious education and still cited knowledge of God. One such example is as follows:

This one involves a three-year-old girl who grew up without the slightest religious influence. The child did not go to nursery school; no one at home, not even her grandmother, who was herself an atheist, had ever spoken of God; the child had never gone to church. One day she questioned her father about the origin of the world: “Where does the world come from?” Her father replied, in a manner consistent with his ideas, with a discourse that was materialistic in nature; then he added; “However, there are those who say that all this comes from a very powerful being, and they call him God.” At this point the little girl began to run like a whirlwind around the room in a burst of joy, and exclaimed: “I knew what you told me wasn’t true; it is Him, it is Him” (Cavalletti. Pg. 32).

This knowing of God without the teaching or learning of God would explain how he protects the children as referred to in the Old Testament as ‘innocents.’ This inquisitive nature in children of asking ‘why’ and ‘how’ begins as soon as children can talk. Anyone who has been around children knows this inquisitive nature and usually responds absent mindly with ‘because’. God has entrusted parents to educate their children spiritually.

And that is my 2 Cents Worth.

RESOURCES:

Cavalletti, Sofia. The Religious Potential of The Child: Experiencing Scripture and Liturgy. Chicago, IL: Litrugy Training Publications, 1992.

“Holman Christian Study Bible.”

Jr., Cornelius Plantinga. Engaging God’s World-A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing co., 2002.

Macarthur, John. “The Age of Accountability.” Grace To You. 2010. http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A264_The-Age-of-Accountability (accessed July 20, 2010).

McGrath, Alister E., ed. The Christian Theology Reader. Third Edition. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

Stonehouse, Catherine. Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey. Grand Rapids, MI: BridgePoint Books, 1998.