Apr 23

Loved Beyond Measure for Mother’s Day — free resources you can use!

Loved_Beyond_Measure_FRWe here at CTA have all fallen in love with our two new product lines for Mother’s Day and women’sministries in 2014.  We are especially excited about Loved Beyond Measure and thrilled with the five new Loved Beyond Measure posters our customers can download for free!

Our designers used elements from the theme art as they created each poster. And the words on each of the five posters are drawn from one of the five weekly devotions in the Loved Beyond Measure devotion book.  These posters will encourage all of God’s daughters in his love for them in Christ Jesus, while the devotions from the value-priced books will elaborate on this love and give readers a deeper appreciation for it.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to help all the women in your church grow in the grace of our Savior this Mother’s Day and all summer long! Don’t overlook the possibilities for an amazing women’s retreat this spring (or fall)! Check out all the free resources available for Loved Beyond Measure­­—posters, free retreat planning guide, invitations, cupcake toppers, and much more!

The  Loved Beyond Measure materials are available in both NIV and KJV and many of the free resources are available in both English and Spanish.

© 2014 CTA, Inc. 

Apr 22

Make Team Teaching Work—for you AND the kids

Team teaching makes sense in all kinds of ways for Sunday school, midweek classes, and Bible clubs, too:

  • It’s safer. Kids need not leave the room alone to get a drink or use the restroom. One adult can go with them to the hallway, while her co-leader stays with the rest of the group.
  • It’s more fun to plan with a co-leader. More ideas get generated – and carried out, because many hands make light work!
  • No one need shoulder the responsibilities for the group’s growth all by themselves. Each person on the team brings different strengths. Each can do what he or she does best, and the children benefit from those strengths.
  • When one leader is unable to attend, you have a “built in sub.” The co-leader knows the routines, the rules, and the children. Outcomes are bound to be better.

Still, reaping all these benefits depends on how you define “team teaching.” If you simply trade off time in the classroom week by week, month by month, or quarter by quarter, the benefits are minimal. It may be easier to get volunteers, at least at first. But those volunteers may not have the commitment essential to the task of making disciples! Just as relationships begin to sprout, the month ends and a new teacher darkens the classroom door. Relationship-building must start all over again. The younger the students, the truer this proves.

So how can you gain the benefits of teaming in a way that benefits adults and students both? Some hints:

  • Recruit two (or more) adult leaders for each group of children. Ask that everyone be on hand every week. Explain why and help them see the benefits in relationship building.
  • Encourage co-leaders to work out ways to share responsibilities. Perhaps one person can teach the Bible story every week and the other plan and lead the craft. Perhaps each leader can organize all the activities every other week or every other month, leaving the co-leader to provide one-on-one help with late arrivers, behavioral challenges, the distribution of materials, or providing snacks. Perhaps an expert teacher plans everything all the time, but treasures a helper willing and able to deal expertly with all the distractions.
  • Co-leaders can “fly solo” on occasion when business travel, vacations, or illness make it necessary. But work to keep these exceptions to a minimum and consider recruiting a “floating helper” who can step in when needed.

Relationship! It is almost another way to spell “disciple-making”! Jesus spent three years teaching and growing close to his disciples. Building on that foundation, they changed the world! What will the Holy Spirit do through the relationships you develop and the Word that you teach?

Editor’s note: CTAinc has dozens and dozens of resources available to enhance your children’s ministry, many of them free! If you are a DCE, DRE, children’s pastor, or Sunday school worker, check them out! We want to save you time and make your important job as impactful as it can be!

© 2014 CTA, Inc. 

Apr 21

Buried with Christ – a free devotion for this week’s meetings

Have you ever buried something, only to have it resurface?

During the late 19th century, farmers and ranchers in our country burned the trash they generated and buried what would not burn. In the 1950’s and ‘60’s, that trash began to resurface. Glass medicine bottles. Rusty tools. Fragments of dishes and cooking pots. All kinds of artifacts, buried decades earlier in pits four to six feet deep, worked their way up to the surface. The need for safer methods of garbage disposal came to light.

Spiritual trash won’t stay buried either. No matter how deep we dig the hole, the toxicity of our sin sooner or later burrows back into our awareness:

  • The IRS audits the tax return we falsified.
  • Our wife finds evidence that we’re deeply addicted to Internet pornography.
  • Dad meets us at the door the day our grade report arrives, revealing how little studying we did for Senior English.
  • Our best friend hears about the nasty off-hand comment we made about her.
  • We schedule the physical we’ve been postponing, and the doctor confronts us with the consequences of our less-than-healthy lifestyle.

Those “gotcha” moments make us squirm. We regret the consequences of getting caught—the fine and penalties, the new medicine, the mandatory summer school class.

But sometimes our regret goes deeper. Our hearts ache as we watch our spouse sob. Our shoulders sag as we see the hurt in our friend’s eyes. Real fear floods our hearts as we consider the very real possibility we might suffer a stroke … or worse.

Sometimes there is no external “gotcha” moment. No one catches on, and we breathe a sigh of relief. Until, that is, we realize we must live with ourselves and with what we have done. Worse still, perhaps the truth dawns on us that we have offended a holy God, our loving heavenly Father. That truth pierces our heart and soul with the pain of real remorse.

Have you ever said something like this? I could just die!

In such moments we wish we could crawl under the table or run out of the building or move to another city. But our sin carries much more serious consequences than mere feelings of embarrassment. We see that as we look to Calvary’s cross. Because of our sins, we could die! In fact, we should die. In fact, we must die! We must die with Jesus on his cross. We must enter the grave with him. There and only there, our sins are buried once and for all. That’s precisely what Romans 6:4 tells us. Listen! (Read it from your Bible.)

What a mystery! We died with Christ; we were buried with Christ; we were raised with Christ—all so we can live with and for Christ. We have received his new life. Our guilt is gone, never to resurface. Our shame is erased. The “old us” is dead! Long live the new creation!

But Jesus accomplished even more on Calvary’s cross and Easter’s open tomb. Because of our Savior’s victory, sin can no longer enslave us. We no longer have to listen to Satan’s temptations or to his accusations; we can dismiss them from our minds. We can tell ourselves the truth about who we really are—God’s new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), his work of art (Ephesians 2:10), his beloved children and the eternal heirs of heaven (Ephesians 1:3-12; 1 John 3:3).

Little by little, our Savior-God is working in us, changing us from “glory to glory” until we become more and more on the outside what God has already declared us to be on the inside—“little Christs” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

Editor’s note: This devotion is adapted slightly from one that appeared in one of CTA’s newsletters several years ago. CTA offers many helpful value-priced devotion books for use year round. May our Savior richly bless your celebration of his Resurrection victory this week and eternally!

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

 

Apr 16

Faith Foundations

PreschooStrong_Foundationslers building in the block area quickly learn that it takes a sturdy foundation to support a tall, strong structure. They soon notice that they can make a tall building from lightweight cardboard blocks, but that building won’t be very strong. To create structures that are both tall and strong, solid wooden blocks work best.

Jesus is our sure foundation. We say it. We sing it. We believe it!

We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:20

Yes, Jesus is “the true God and eternal life.” This is the main message we want to teach all the students in every one of our classes at church. Sunday school. Bible clubs. Midweek classes. Confirmation. Whatever the venue, whatever the students’ ages, Jesus is the foundation.

If I were able to pick just three more lessons to emphasize, I would choose three that keep me strong as I face the daily challenges of life. These three faith lessons are:

1. Ask the Holy Spirit to work in you a heart filled with gratitude and joy. This comes when we realize more and more fully all that Jesus has done for us. Even in times when we face overwhelming challenges, we can look back to see how Jesus has cared for us in the past. That gives us the confidence we need to trust his care for us in the present. Our hearts fill again with gratitude.

2. Enjoy the moment. The now is all that God gives us. In the cross of our Savior, we can let go of past mistakes. We can place the future in the nail-scarred hands of Christ. We can celebrate this moment.

3. Remember that God is with us always. He is here to help, to heal, to support, to strengthen. This means we can let go of worry, anger, and fear. We need not let ourselves be overwhelmed. God is with us in Christ! He is our Immanuel – not just at Christmas, but all year long!

As we interact with the children in our classes grow in their faith, we want to be intentional about helping them apply these faith lessons for themselves.

For your reflection:

  • If you could pick only three foundational faith lessons for life to share with your students, what would they be?
  • How have you helped your students learn and apply these faith lessons?
  • When have you noticed your students demonstrating faith in Jesus, their firm foundation?

Blessings to you as you keep building your faith on Jesus, the sure foundation and as you help others do the same!

Editor’s note: For more ideas, see CTA’s newest theme for kids, Faith Under Construction. As you plan summer Sunday school, VBS, and special events, these colorful, Christ-centered products will help you encourage the kids in your church to grow in grace!

Scriptures quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 © 2014 CTA, Inc.

 

 

Apr 15

Countdown to Easter Message 6: King — A free devotion for your children’s ministry

Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of six devotions intended to help children prepare for Easter. It’s slightly adapted from CTA’s theme for spring, Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate!  

Getting Ready

Familiarize yourself with the devotion. Place a bookmark in your Bible at John 11:25.

Place all of the magnet pieces of your Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate activity magnet individually on one side of a metal cookie sheet or pizza pan. Plan to assemble them on the other side of the pan during the introduction. Place the metal pan and your Bible inside a bag.

Have extra Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate magnet pieces on hand and plan to distribute them to children who didn’t receive one to take home last time.

Introduction

Warmly greet the children and invite everyone to sit down around you. Nearby, place the bag of items you prepared ahead of time. Remind your listeners that you have been counting down the weeks until Resurrection Sunday—the day when Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead.

It’s time! Today is the great day on which Christians from all around the world celebrate Jesus, our risen Savior-King, and his Resurrection victory. We will talk more about that in a moment, but first let’s review our countdown so far.

(Briefly review as you show each corresponding puzzle piece, assembling the pieces as you go.)

(Red piece: hearts) Jesus is the friend of sinful people. We talked about six friends of Jesus—including us! Jesus is our friend, just as he befriended so many people when he lived here on earth. Jesus loves us so much that he took our punishment, dying for us on the cross. Just think! Jesus loved us so much, that he even died for us!

(Orange piece: lightning bolt) Jesus is powerful. We talked about five of the many miracles Jesus did—powerful miracles. Jesus calmed terrible storms, fed many people, healed a blind man, and much, much more. This same, powerful Jesus loves us. He wants to help us when we have troubles and problems. He can help us with our troubles and problems. No problem is too big or too hard for Jesus!

(White piece: no sin) Jesus died on the cross for us. He died in our place, taking the punishment we had deserved. Now we are forgiven! Jesus crossed out all of our sins. And he helps us live as God’s loving, obedient children. Jesus is our wonderful friend and Savior.

(Green piece: three crosses) The cross on which Jesus died didn’t belong to him. He never did anything wrong. He never sinned. That cross really belonged to us. But Jesus hung on that cross, dying in our place. Jesus loves us that much! Amazing!

• (Blue piece: Jesus’ hand) Jesus blessed, healed, and helped the people who came to him for help when he lived here on earth. Jesus still blesses, heals, and helps us today. Jesus knows when we feel hopeless, lonely, and sad. Jesus is always ready to comfort us, to hold us close to help us feel better.

Getting to the Heart

There is one last piece for our puzzle. I told you last time that it has a special shape.

(Show listeners the crown on the yellow puzzle piece and the words “Jesus, the King!” Invite the children to listen as you retell the story of Christ’s resurrection. Each time your listeners hear the word “one,” they should raise one index finger and point upward.)

One very large stone stood in front of Jesus’ tomb. Jesus’ friends had buried him in that tomb when they took his lifeless body down from the cross. Jesus was dead, and all his friends felt very sad and very, very lonely. Meanwhile, Jesus’ enemies insisted that Governor Pilate secure the tomb, so Pilate sent one group of soldiers to guard Jesus’ tomb. They stood there, guarding Jesus tomb for three days.

Early on Sunday morning—Resurrection Sunday morning—one great earthquake shook the ground. The soldiers fell over, then ran away in fear. They had seen an angel came down from heaven! That one angel had rolled the one huge stone away from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

But there were zero dead bodies inside! Jesus’ body was no longer there. Jesus was no longer in his tomb. Jesus was no longer dead! Our one and only Savior Jesus was alive! Jesus had defeated our greatest enemy—death! Jesus is the one, true king. Jesus rules! He is our one, living, forgiving, loving Savior!

Each year, God’s people remember and celebrate Resurrection Day. It is the one greatest day of all—the day of the one greatest victory of all. Jesus, our Savior, lives! Jesus’ victory over death is also our victory! Listen to what Jesus promises us. (Read John 11:25 from your Bible.) Cheer together: Jesus lives! Let’s celebrate!

Taking It Home

Have the children listen and watch as you sing the words of the following song, using the tune for Frère Jacques. As you sing, point to each of the six pieces of the now complete Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate! magnet puzzle to cue the group. Then ask them to sing along with you. Practice several times.

Jesus loves me! (red piece: hearts)

He has power (orange piece: lightning bolt)

Over sin, (white piece: no sin)

Over death. (green piece: crosses)

Jesus is my Savior! (blue piece: Jesus’ hands)

Jesus is my Savior!

Jesus lives!

Jesus lives! (yellow piece: crown)

Pray together: Thank you, King Jesus, for everything you have done for us. Thank you for making us your forgiven children. Help us praise and honor you every day until we live with you forever. Amen.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Apr 14

Defeated — a free devotion for Holy Week

Read Colossians 2:15.

As enemy forces advanced, Baker Company was cut off from the rest of the regiment. For several hours, headquarters tried again and again to contact the missing unit. Finally, a faint signal crackled on the radio.

Straining to hear each word, a corpsman asked, “Baker Company, do you read me?”

“This is Baker Company,” came the reply.

The corpsman asked, “What is your situation?”

“The enemy is to the east of us. The enemy is to the north and south of us.” Then after, a brief pause, “The enemy is on the west, too. They won’t get away from us now!”

As Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary, Satan’s forces moved in, certain of victory. But like some gullible fish in a murky river, the enemy did not see the steel barb of Christ’s divinity hidden beneath the flesh of his human nature. The enemy would not get away. His defeat was sealed.

It certainly did not appear that way on Good Friday afternoon. Jesus’ friends must have felt disgraced and shameful, defeated and hopeless. There was shame, of course, but none of it belonged to our Lord. All the angels of heaven and every demon in hell would soon discover that the only ones disgraced and defeated on Calvary that day were Satan and his cohorts.

Jesus had used death to defeat death. Like some divine martial arts expert, our Lord overpowered the rulers and authorities that had held the human race in bondage. And he had used weakness to do it! He not only disarmed them, he humiliated them.

How sweet is the cross of Jesus. How powerful is the cross of our Lord, too! May it always be that Paul’s boast will be ours as well. (Read Galatians 6:13.)

Prayer starter: Jesus, you are my pride and joy. I boast in you and in your cross! The power of the cross has brought me freedom from sin’s slavery and death’s domination. Nothing else in my life comes close to the joy and pride of belonging to you . . .

Editor’s note: This devotion is adapted slightly from one that appeared in The Power of the Cross, a book of devotions intended to help God’s people prepare for Easter in 2009. While this title is no longer available, CTA offers many helpful value-priced devotion books for use year round. May our Savior richly bless your celebration of his Resurrection victory this week and eternally!

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Apr 09

Faith Under Construction: Are we giving kids the tools they need?

Faith_Under_ConstructionThe block area in any early childhood classroom is usually abuzz with activity. Children love to build, creating strong, stable structures. Usually, the children collaborate with one another, testing various strategies. Adults can play an important role, too, providing ideas and suggesting additional tools to support the children as they learn. No doubt about it: the kids’ brains are under construction.

If you teach Sunday school or a midweek class, you get to watch faith under construction! No matter how young or old they are, as our students learn more about Jesus, faith grows. But this doesn’t just happen. Adults need to provide the experiences and the materials that make it possible for strong, stable faith to develop.

These three tools are foundational for faith formation:

1. Teach the Bible stories. Young children love stories. These early years are a wonderful time to teach them the stories of Jesus. As we teach the stories, children learn that Jesus cared for people who were hungry and sick. They see his love, compassion, and forgiveness in action. They also learn that Jesus is with them to help, comfort, and deliver them in every time of fear and need. He is now and forever our kind, good Friend!

Younger children will focus on the basic facts of the story. As the students grow, they can begin to understand the deeper faith lessons these profound stories teach.

2. Practice faith habits. Our young students watch and learn as we model the habits of faith. As we worship regularly, pray before meals (even snacks!), and talk about our Savior, our students learn to sing about Jesus, pray to him, talk about him, and think of him as their best Friend.

3. Connect with others who know Jesus as their Savior. Together, we form a community of faith, a faith family, helping one another grow closer to Jesus and to each other. We need each other – kids and grownups alike. We want our students to know how important it is for them to spend time with other Christians, encouraging one other in the faith and being supportive in other, tangible ways, too. We both model this and talk about it with our students.

Blessings to you as you help children learn about Jesus through these fundamental faith tools!

Editor’s note: For more ideas, see CTA’s newest theme for kids, Faith Under Construction. As you plan summer Sunday school, VBS, and special events, these colorful, Christ-centered products will help you encourage the kids in your church to grow in grace!

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

 

Apr 08

Countdown to Easter Message 5: Care — A free devotion for your children’s ministry

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of six devotions intended to help children prepare for Easter. It’s slightly adapted from CTA’s theme for spring, Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate!  

Getting Ready

Familiarize yourself with today’s devotion. Place a bookmark in your Bible at John 14:27.

Place the blue magnet piece of your Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate activity magnet on a metal cookie sheet or pizza pan. Put the assembled previous pieces on the other side of the pan.

Place the metal pan and your Bible inside a bag.

Have extra Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate magnet pieces on hand and plan to distribute them to children who didn’t receive one to take home last time.

Introduction

Warmly greet the children and invite everyone to sit down around you. Nearby, place the bag of items you prepared ahead of time. Remind your listeners that you are counting down the weeks until Resurrection Day—the day when Jesus rose from the dead. In just two weeks, we will celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Invite everyone to join in as you count down together: 2, 1—Jesus lives! Let’s celebrate!

Last time we talked about the three’s that were important when Jesus died on the cross. Today, let’s think about the ‘twos’ we see in the story of Jesus’ dying and rising again for us.

Getting to the Heart

On the day Jesus died, most of his disciples, his followers, and his friends ran away to hide. They were afraid—very afraid. Maybe Jesus’ enemies would capture and kill them, too! So as Jesus hung on the cross, he was almost alone.

Still, some people were brave enough to stay with him. Today, I want to tell you about two special people who stood at the foot of Jesus’ cross while he died: Mary and John.

Mary was Jesus’ mother. She gave birth to Jesus on the very first Christmas. When Jesus was a little boy, Mary helped him learn about our heavenly Father. She helped him learn Bible verses by heart. She told Jesus stories from the Bible—some of the stories you have learned. Adam and Eve. Noah and the Great Flood. David and Goliath. All those stories and many more.

When Jesus grew up, Mary no doubt listened to Jesus teach. She heard about all the many miracles he was doing, and she probably witnessed some of them, too. How proud and happy she must have felt.

But now Mary stood on the hill called Calvary, watching her son Jesus die on a cross. It must have broken her heart!

Mary wasn’t there by herself. Jesus’ disciple John stood near Mary beneath Jesus’ cross. John was one of our Savior’s closest friends. Like Mary, John had seen Jesus heal, forgive, and teach. John had seen crippled people walk. He had seen hungry people fed. He had seen guilty people forgiven. Now, John watched as his Lord and Teacher suffered and died on the cross. John, too, must have felt as if his heart was breaking.

Jesus saw how sad Mary and John felt. Jesus wanted to comfort them. He wanted them to help and befriend each other. So Jesus told Mary, “John will be your son.” To John, Jesus said, “Here is your mother.” Jesus was asking John to take care of Mary and love her just as if she were his own mother. Jesus was asking Mary to encourage John and to rely on John just as if he were her own son. The Bible tells us that John and Mary did what Jesus asked. John took Mary into his home and cared for her.

Jesus knew how confused and frightened his friends felt. He knew both Mary and John were worried and so, so sad. So Jesus comforted them.

Jesus comforts and cares for us, too. Listen! (Read John 14:27 from your Bible.) Jesus knows that sometimes we feel afraid. Sometimes we worry or feel sad. Jesus wants us to know that he cares—really cares—for us! His love comforts us, and his strength protects us.

(Show the children the blue Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate magnet puzzle piece and call attention to the picture and the word “Care” on the piece.) This is like Jesus’ hand. While he lived here on earth, Jesus used his hands to touch and heal. He used his hands to give food to hungry people. He used his hands to bless. Then he stretched out his hands on the cross—and died. The nails didn’t hold him to his cross. His love for us held him there. Knowing Jesus did that for us, we also know we can trust him to help with all our other troubles, too.

Taking It Home

Invite the children to repeat these words after you as you pray together:

Dear Jesus,/ thank you for loving us./ Thank you for taking care of us./ Help us trust you always./ Amen./

(Distribute the Jesus Lives! Let’s Celebrate activity magnet pieces to any children who didn’t get one last time as you hand out blue pieces to everyone. Encourage them to put the five pieces together at home, and tell them that the piece for next time is a very special shape.)

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Apr 07

A Step Down – a free devotion for National Volunteer Appreciation Week


Read John 13:1–17. As you read, emphasize verses 4-5

He had to kneel. There’s no other way to wash someone’s feet. Bending over won’t do at all. So Jesus knelt.

It was a step down. A giant step down, when we consider the rainbow-encircled throne from which he had descended three short decades earlier. God became man. The Creator took on skin and hair and blood vessels. Embryo to fetus to newborn lying in his peasant mother’s lap, snuggling close against the cold.

A step down. It was that all right, and more—much more! Just think of it! Jesus kneels so we can stand, right with God, blameless, unashamed, and filled with joy in his presence. Now, by faith, we are the children of God, heirs of heaven, forever.

The gentle Jesus, crucified and risen in love for each one of us personally, has by his death made us great. We have incredible value in God’s eyes, not because of what we have done or can do, but because of what Christ did for us.

What an amazing difference it would make if we could begin to grasp even a small bit of that truth! We would no longer agonize in guilt over sins long since forgiven. We would no longer need to toot our own horn or defend our own record. We would no longer wonder if we’ve done enough or if our best service has been good enough.

Jesus stooped down, stepped down from heaven itself into our reality. Now, he takes our hand to lift us up. What grace! Truly amazing grace!

Are you looking for a simple way to say thanks to all those volunteers that invest so much time and effort for your church, school, or Christian group? CTA has many thoughtful, value-priced gifts you might want to consider using, plus many related FREE resources. Check them out!

 © 2014 CTA, Inc. 

 

Apr 02

April 6-12 Is National Volunteer Appreciation Week

Thank_You_Are you looking for a simple way to say thanks? Here’s a note you can include in this week’s bulletin or newsletter. Or post it on your church’s website. CTA has many thoughtful, value-priced gifts you might want to consider using, too. Check them out!

  

To All Our Volunteers: Thank You!

 We thank our Lord for all the

many things we see in you:

The kindness, joy, and servant heart

in everything you do!

 

You’d rather not be noticed.

Still, God knows what you have done.

Each selfless act, each thoughtful deed,

Reflects his loving Son.

 

If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:26 ESV

 

© 2014 CTA, Inc. 

 

Older posts «