Jan 27

Bible Literacy for Kids

Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. Luke 11:28

Listen to any religious educator, and you’ll hear the same thing: Bible literacy in the United States is lower than it’s ever been. Many adults say they are knowledgeable about the Bible, but they are unable to name the Books of the Bible or identify, say, four of the 12 apostles or name five of the Ten Commandments. In fact, most Christians fail to read from the Bible, even once a week.

Bible illiteracy is also a serious and growing issue among our children. Are you addressing it in your children’s ministry? How might you do that?

We encourage you to gather your children’s ministry team and brainstorm strategies that will integrate the Bible into each and every lesson, activity, and event that you conduct. Feel free to start slow—simply read short passages directly from the Bible (both New and Old Testament) during children’s lessons. You could even pick a special Bible verse for the children to memorize each month. Continually use Bible stories and the people of the Bible to emphasize the Gospel message.

Don’t be afraid to utilize children’s ministry resources that are specifically focused on Bible literacy. Look for simple materials that always point back to the Bible. In Exploring God’s Word, CTA has created a line teaching materials aimed at improving Bible literacy. There are resources to use in teaching the Books of the Bible, teaching basic Bible stories, and engaging children in God’s Word.

 

Scriptures are from the King James or Authorized Version of the Holy Bible.

© 2015 CTA, Inc.

Jan 26

Love, Forgiveness, and Change – a free devotion for this week’s meetings

Editor’s note: Can you believe that the Easter season is almost here?! Ash Wednesday arrives on February 18 and Easter Sunday falls on April 5. To help everyone prepare, we are sharing the third in a series of devotions focused on exploring God’s love more deeply. They are slightly adapted from CTA’s new devotional prayer journal for the Easter season—This Love Changes Everything. We encourage you to share this short meditation and activity with your church staff, volunteers, and other ministry members during the week. Many blessings to you and your church family during the upcoming Easter season!

Begin by reading and studying Matthew 21:12–17.

This passage illustrates the very real difference Jesus’ earthly ministry made. Some loved and believed in him. Some hated and opposed him. Still today we see these two responses. What has led you to love and believe?

In faith, God has worked habits of holiness in you as you have come to know your Savior’s life-changing love. This is a process that never stops! Sometimes you may want to run away from the circumstances God has placed in your life—frustrations pile up and you might just lose it! But Jesus is always there to comfort you with the grace that flows from Calvary’s cross. Think about the changes you (and he!) want to see in your life and how those changes might strengthen your faith.

Begin your prayer with these words: Lord, your enemies have always hated your name and your Word. Still, you go on loving them and working to bring them to repentance. Teach me to love and forgive as you have loved and forgiven me, especially . . .

 

© 2015 CTA, Inc.

Jan 21

3 Key Components of Keeping Your Ministry Vibrant

“Finally, then brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” 

1 Thessalonians 4:1

In this verse, Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they are doing a great job walking with God, but he tells them they need to do this “more and more.” They cannot stop learning and doing more; they need to be continually thinking about what can they do next as they serve their Savior.

This is our charge as well. When we are doing “more and more,” we are able to develop vibrant ministries that reach God’s children and those who don’t know Jesus yet.

Let’s consider three key components of vibrant ministries.

  1. Vibrant ministries are Christ-centered. Whenever the children of God gather, we share Jesus. When planning experiences, all workers involved discuss how the participants will recognize Jesus’ presence during the event. No one ever leaves a meeting or an event without knowing that Jesus loves them, covers them with his grace, cares for them, and is always with them.
  1. Vibrant ministries are relational. No matter what group of people we are serving, we are making every effort to help individuals develop relationships. Relational ministry means that all gatherings include time for people to just be together in community. They have time to get to know one another, either informally or through small group discussions. They are encouraged to share their feelings and ideas. They come together to engage in hands-on service activities like making blankets or preparing meals for homeless families.

For example, when children gather, they are given time to play and simply have fun. When adults gather, we encourage conversation instead of immediately diving into an agenda. They are given time to share stories of the joys and challenges of their lives. We listen to their stories while providing support and encouragement.

  1. Vibrant ministries focus on creating a learning community. We create this type of community for the planners and the participants. Ministry planners are actively involved in the development process. Their ideas are valued and incorporated into the event. The learning community engages in a continuous process of planning, implementation, and evaluation. Planning for the next event reflects feedback received from the evaluation of the previous event.

Attendees are also learning. Children are learning about Bible stories, prayer, and worship. They also learn how to share Jesus’ love with others. Adult education opportunities provide a variety of ways to learn. Some learning can be shared in a lecture format, but thought-provoking questions followed by group discussions are also helpful.

Keeping our ministry vibrant is hard work. It’s challenging. It takes dedicated time and effort. But we have to keep looking at our work with a critical eye, asking ourselves how we can do “more and more” for his children. When we do this, we are helping all ministry members develop a deeper faith that truly enriches their lives “more and more.”

Blessings to you as you challenge yourselves with a vibrant ministry that constantly seeks to be “more and more”!

 

Scripture quotations marked ESV 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.

© 2015 CTA, Inc.

Jan 20

Preparing Kids for Easter

Wise parents and teachers, too, help kids get ready for all kinds of events, large and small throughout the year. Parents rehearse for weeks with the three-year-old flower girl or ring bearer in an older cousin’s wedding party. We buy pencils, backpacks, and new clothes before the first day of school. We discuss paint colors and new dressers with young adults before the big move to a new apartment or house.

Why? Because kids need help getting ready for important events. And adults often do, too! That’s why since the very early centuries of Christianity, pastors and other leaders have helped God’s people prepare to celebrate Easter.

Liturgical churches call their time of preparation, “Lent.” During the six weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, Christians in these churches focus on reflection, repentance, and service for others. Whether your church calls this time Lent or simply “Easter preparation,” it’s good to take time to review Jesus’ sacrifice and his love for us, love that lead him to the cross, there to die for our sins. It’s good to help children do these things, too, as they prepare to celebrate Easter—the true meaning of Easter, that meaning that goes far beyond new shoes and chocolate rabbits.

We have about a month left for planning our approach; Ash Wednesday falls on February 18 this year. But that’s plenty of time to put together a few special activities or mid-week events to teach the children in your ministry about Jesus’ journey to the cross and what it means for them.

Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

  • CTA’s Resource and Idea Center is filled with free materials for you to use. You’ll find ministry messages, invitations, event outlines, and many other time-saving resources.
  • If you teach mid-week classes or Sunday school, focus on a different theme each week leading up to Easter. Try themes like forgiveness, love, service, new life, or others.
  • If you already have your children’s ministry activities planned through Easter, consider adding a simple hands-on activity as each session begins or ends. For example, CTA’s Jesus Makes All Things New expanding washcloth is an engaging activity for little ones. Simply put the small disc in water and it grows to become a washcloth. Demonstrate and then explain that Jesus washes away our sins. We are new and clean before God!
  • If you work with older kids, look to one of CTA’s Easter activity booklets for simple, yet meaningful ideas.
  • Reviewing the Lord’s suffering and death may lead students to ask tough or awkward questions. You may hear things like, “Why did Jesus’ have to die?” or “Why would those people kill him?” There is no “nice” way to answer questions like this—Jesus’ death was cruel and awful. Jesus endured the punishment we deserved. Don’t dismiss questions like these. Instead, use age-appropriate language to answer. Keep your answers simple. Limit your focus on the physical suffering and accent instead Jesus love for us and the total forgiveness he earned for us.

Wise parents and teachers, too, help kids get ready for all kinds of events—especially Easter! Use the weeks ahead in your children’s ministry to emphasize the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus that ultimately triumphed on Easter morning.

 

© 2015 CTA, Inc.

Jan 19

A Book about Jesus – a free devotion for this week’s meetings

Editor’s note: Can you believe that the Easter season is almost here?! Ash Wednesday arrives on February 18 and Easter Sunday falls on April 5. To help everyone prepare, we are sharing the second in a series of devotions focused on exploring God’s love more deeply. They are slightly adapted from CTA’s new devotional prayer journal for the Easter season—This Love Changes Everything. We encourage you to share this short meditation and activity with your church staff, volunteers, and other ministry members during the week. Many blessings to you and your church family during the upcoming Easter season!

Begin by reading and studying John 15:13.

Someone once wrote a book titled What Jesus Means to Me. If you were to write a book like that, how would you title your chapters? (Use Jesus’ own words in John 15:13 and 17:1–5 to jumpstart your thought process.)

Would you have a (lengthy) chapter titled “Forgiveness”? Without apology, the Bible calls us all “sinners.” Our sin is not insignificant, either. Christ Jesus, God’s own Son, died on account of it! What makes it hard to accept this reality? What makes it necessary? How does Jesus’ love make it possible?

For Christians, every Sunday is “a little Easter,” a reminder of the wondrous love Jesus showed us through his great resurrection victory! How could you celebrate Jesus’ very real victory and very real love by sharing that love in some way today? Hint: It might be even more fun if you do something a little out of your comfort zone—and work hard to keep your efforts anonymous.

Begin your prayer with these words: Dear Jesus, your love is real, and it means so much more to me than I can even say. Guide me as I . . .

 

© 2015 CTA, Inc.

Jan 14

How to Overcome Comfy Couch Syndrome

When our girls were growing up, one of their favorite shows was “The Big Comfy Couch.” As I remember the show, it always started and ended with the main character sitting in an oversized couch. She looked so content and happy. I have a comfy couch, too. I love it because I feel so safe and secure there. I don’t have to deal with challenges or face any struggles when I am sitting on my comfy couch.

But I have to be careful. If I get too settled there on my couch, I won’t be able to keep learning and growing as God’s child. As we serve in our various ministries, we all need to watch out for “comfy couch syndrome”. It comes in various forms, but mainly shows itself in the sameness of how we accomplish our work. Maybe it involves not being open to changing the Sunday morning format because the way we are doing things works just fine. It may mean following the same format for the women’s retreat year after year. Comfy couch syndrome could also involve using the same forms or notices year after year without deciding if any of the information needs to be changed or updated. This sameness feels so safe and comfy. But this sameness also means we might be caught in status quo ministry. Sadly, our ministries will not thrive if we maintain this approach.

To keep ourselves from staying on the comfy couch too long, we need to have healthy habits that help our ministry thrive. Healthy habits can be placed in two broad categories: practicing spiritual disciplines and striving to create a change-friendly community for volunteers, members, and staff.

First, the spiritual disciplines involve deepening our faith through Bible study, prayer, journaling, solitude or quiet time, worship, fellowship, and service. Through the study of God’s Word, we learn more about our God and Savior. While in prayer and stillness, we are able to seek our God and the Holy Spirit’s direction as we serve. As we gather with other Christians for worship, fellowship, and service, we strengthen one another as the Body of Christ. These practices are a critical part of keeping our ministry focused on service to our Savior, not on ourselves or our plans.

Secondly, a healthy habit in ministry is to be welcoming to change. Volunteers, members, and staff should be continually encouraged to dedicate themselves to problem solving, persistence amidst challenging situations, and an openness to new ideas. This also means that we are in the habit of asking tough questions about ourselves and our ministry. This process involves deciding when to keep events and activities that are successful, but also being ready to make changes to them when needed. After successful events and programs, leaders should continue to look for ways to improve knowing that doing things exactly the same year after year is not an option.

So, are you suffering from comfy couch syndrome? To be honest, I know I have to guard myself against status quo ministry because I do like that cozy, secure place. But I also know that exciting growth happens when I go beyond my comfort zone and practice healthy ministry habits.

As the new year begins, I am going to keep working on these healthy habits. What about you?

 

© 2015 CTA, Inc.

 

 

 

Jan 13

Jesus Loves You and Me – a free Valentine’s Day devotion for kids

Introduction

Have you ever said something like this to your mom or your teacher? “It’s not fair!” What did you mean? How can you tell when something is fair?

(Let volunteers suggest answers.) Sometimes we say “It’s not fair” when we don’t like the decision an adult (or one of our friends) has made. But usually we mean we’ve been left out or passed over when everyone else was included. We should have been included. We should have gotten a cookie, too. We should have gotten to go to the movie with everyone else. But we didn’t.

Kids use the word fairness; grown-ups use the word justice. Those two words are similar. They refer to people getting what’s right.

Getting to the Heart

Now, suppose your class has gotten a new teacher—a very strict teacher. Suppose that if you even think about disobeying the rules, he sends you to the principal’s office. You went there three times last week—and the principal called your dad or mom. One of your parents had to come to school to talk with the principal.

You and your friends can’t believe how strict this teacher is!

But one of your classmates—the class bully in fact—gets away with everything. You whisper during math class and get sent to the principal. The bully throws a dictionary across the room—and your teacher just frowns at him! You spill your milk at lunch, accidently, and get sent to the principal. The bully throws broccoli at the wall to see if it will stick—and your teacher turns away quickly, pretending not to see it!

Would you say, “It’s not fair!”? I’m sure you would, and you would be right!

But suppose you found out that your new teacher is the bully’s dad. Your teacher loves the bully—really, really loves that bully! Would you still say, “It’s not fair!”? Yes, and you would still be right. Love and justice are not the same.

The Bible tells us that God is just. He always does the right thing. He does what is fair. But the Bible also says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). His love for us has no beginning and no end. He loves us with “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Can you see that God has a problem? You and I don’t just whisper during math class! We hurt other people by saying mean things. We forget to pray. We think selfish thoughts. We take things that don’t belong to us. We sometimes act very much like the bully in the story I just told. We are sinners: we sin.

Since God is just, he must—to be fair—punish us for our sins. He can’t just say, “I love them! They are my children. I don’t want to punish them.” That wouldn’t be fair; it wouldn’t be justice. But God does love us! He truly doesn’t want to punish us.

God is just. God is love. And God is wise! So he found a way to be both just and fair. He found a perfectly fair way to save us. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, came to earth on the first Christmas. Jesus was born as a true human being in that stable in Bethlehem we sing about every year at Christmastime.

Jesus obeyed every one of God’s laws—perfectly! He never did anything wrong, not one thing! He never sinned. He grew up and did many, many good, kind things. Jesus was perfect.

Then, on the day Christians call Good Friday, Jesus let wicked people nail him to a cross. He bled and died there. He took the punishment we deserved. How that could be is a mystery and a miracle all at the same time, but it’s true.

When we see Jesus hanging on that cross, we see two things. We see how very bad our sins are and what kind of punishment we deserve. We also see how very much God loves us. We see the Bible is true when it says, “God is love!”

The story of God’s love didn’t end on that cross, though, did it? God raised Jesus from the dead on the very first Easter. On Resurrection Sunday, God proved that our sins were gone. God showed that he is stronger than death. God showed that he is just and he is love.

God loves you—each of you. He loves you and me so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. We are his very own, dearly loved children. He is our kind, good Father right now. When our lives here on this earth end, he will take us to live with him forever. What good news!

Taking It Home

Sadly, not everybody knows that good news about Jesus.

Some people think that God is like that unfair teacher I told you about, just overlooking their sins. Some people think they have no sins to forgive! They think they have never robbed a bank or killed anyone, so they’re okay. After all, “God is love,” they think. They forget one thing: it’s not fair for God to overlook any sins.

Most people don’t think about God at all. They just live for now. Someday, they will think about God, but not today.

It is important to remind yourself every day that God is just, God is love, and God is wise. Just as important, Jesus wants us to share this with someone who doesn’t know the good news about Jesus or with someone who knows, but who needs to be reminded. Think about that person now. (Pause while students think.)

Do you have someone in mind? Let’s pray for those people.

Lord God, you are just and fair. We praise you! You are also loving. We thank you! We thank you especially for sending Jesus to be our Savior, to die and rise again for us. Help us share his love with the friends we are thinking about right now. Amen.

 

Scriptures are from the King James or Authorized Version of the Holy Bible.

© 2015 CTA, Inc.

Jan 12

Love One Another– a free devotion for this week’s meetings

Editor’s note: Can you believe that the Easter season is almost here?! Ash Wednesday arrives on February 18 and Easter Sunday falls on April 5. To help everyone prepare, we are sharing the first in a series of devotions focused on exploring God’s love more deeply. They are slightly adapted from CTA’s new devotional prayer journal for the Easter season—This Love Changes Everything. We encourage you to share this short meditation and activity with your church staff, volunteers, and other ministry members during the week. Many blessings to you and your church family during the upcoming Easter season!

Begin by reading and studying John 13:34.

When we receive and receive and receive Christ’s love, sooner or later, we overflow with it. We can’t help but give it to others. In what ways would you like to be more generous with your love? Ask Jesus to work that in you.

Pair up with another Christian this week to brainstorm a random act of love you can do to make a difference in the life of someone you don’t know. Take homemade cookies as a treat for one of the children’s classes in your church. Donate a dozen pairs of new mittens to a homeless shelter. Leave a generous tip for a tired hairstylist or for the person at the fast-food drive-through.

As you do whatever you do, remember this: love is sometimes a feeling, but it is always a decision, a commitment.

Begin your prayer with these words: Dear Jesus, when I’m stingy in showing love, forgive me . . .

 

© 2015 CTA, Inc.

Jan 08

Resource and Idea Center: New Newsletter Templates

CTA customers often rave about our long list of free resources and now we’ve created one more set of free materials you can use in your ministry—monthly newsletter templates. We’ll be writing more about these templates in early February, but if you want a sneak peek, go ahead and check them out now!

© 2015 CTA, Inc.

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