Getting More Out of a Children’s SS Lesson

Many elementary children enjoy Sunday School when they attend. Some children attend regularly while others attend sporadically. Of course, we would like to see all of our children attend regularly, but that is somewhat out of our control. So, what can be done to get more out of Sunday School for both regular attenders and sporadic attenders?

If the Sunday School lesson goes home with a child in a way that it will be put into practice and validated within a few days at home, the lesson will have more of an impact. Many children’s Sunday School teachers send activities home with their children. It may be something the children have colored or perhaps made from construction paper and/or Popsicle sticks, etc. These send-home activities are great! Parents often ask their children about them, followed by a short conversation. The colored picture may end up on the refrigerator for a little while or whatever was constructed might be enjoyed until it falls apart or gets thrown in the garbage when no one is looking.

Children’s Sunday School curriculum publishers like Lifeway, Group, Orange, and others have taken steps to provide children’s ministries with take-home discussion guides and activities for parents to use with their children at home. The intent is for parents to use these materials to continue the biblical learning that began on Sunday morning. Many of the take-home materials produced by the various publishers are very well done. Certainly some parents put these materials to good use with their children later in the week as intended.

While I do not have any hard statistics regarding the use of these materials, my experience tells me these materials are often not used as intended. Over the years, I have asked parents about their experience with the take-home materials. Most of the parents surveyed do not utilize them. The children may see the materials displayed or carry them around for a little while, but the hope of deeper learning is typically not accomplished.

Parents indicate the normal issues – lack of time and motivation – as the reason the materials are not used at home. Some parents have not looked at the materials closely enough to realize how good some of them actually are or how to implement them into conversation and continued learning for their children.

As church leaders, we cannot do much of anything to impact the time issues a family faces; but perhaps, we can impact the motivation issue. If a child really wants to use the materials, and asks his or her parents to sit with them and complete the activity, discussion guide, etc. they will more than likely do it.

The question then arises, “How can we motive the children?” One thing is for sure, simply sending the materials home doesn’t seem to work. Following are some simple suggestions to increase the likelihood of send-home materials being used.

1. Mail the material to the child so that it arrives approximately mid-week. Children love to receive mail! A personal note from the teacher explaining the material and encouraging them to complete the task will motivate a child to ask Mom and/or Dad for help.

2. If you cannot mail the material and must send it home on Sunday, follow up mid-week with a note to the child giving instructions on what to do with the material they took home.

3. Call the child about mid-week and encourage them to ask Mom and Dad to assist them with the take-home materials. Children love to receive a phone call from their teacher!

4. Take time the following Sunday to ask about the children’s experience with the take-home material. Be consistent with this. It will motivate the children to do the take-home material.

5. Set up a simple reward system for those who complete the take-home material. Children love stickers! They also love special treats and special activities. Make sure your expectations for the percentage of completion of the materials is reasonable for the larger rewards.

A little extra effort from the Sunday School Director to set up follow-up system and to train the children’s leaders and teachers; and, a little extra effort from Children’s Sunday School teachers to follow through with the system can stimulate family interaction that will help children and their parents go deeper into God’s word and in the knowledge of their relationship with Him.

Reverend Joe McDowell is our guest writer today. Joe is the pastor of Aaron’s Creek Baptist Church in Virgilina VA. He has pastored there for almost 3 years. Prior to that, Joe served for almost 20 years as an Education Pastor at several large churches in the Charlotte, NC area. Joe also owns Revolutionary Families, LLC — http://www.revolutionaryfamilies.com “Helping families meet the challenges of today’s culture through individual, couple & family coaching.”

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Squeeze On!

You must now wash each other’s feet. (John 13:13, MSG)

If you put a sponge under running water, within a few minutes it is saturated. It can hold no more water.

But what if you left the sponge under the running water for five more minutes? Would it hold any more?

Perhaps if you left the sponge under the running water for a whole day it would hold more?

What would you have to do for the sponge to hold more water?

Squeeze it out. Only when you squeeze the sponge will it hold more water.

As you minister in the marketplace and increase faith with greater joy so you love God and others more, you are like a sponge. You can only soak up more as you squeeze your life and give away the positive you have received from God. As you give away the positive results, you create room within yourself and your work for achieving more.

As your faith increases, you trust God more. You give more and receive more which builds a more intimate, credible relationship with your Creator. The kind Jesus enjoyed.

When he gathered with his best friends for a last meal before his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus humbled himself and washed their feet. He squeezed himself of any ego needs and bathed their smelly, callused feet.

That’s the last place you would expect to find the One who was present when the universe was created, the divine Son of God, the Christ who came down from heaven—as a common servant, on his hands and knees, stooping to wash his best friends’ nasty feet.

Peter had trouble getting his head wrapped around this paradox. It challenged his understanding of what it means to be God, to be powerful, to be “large and in charge.” He pushed back against Jesus’ example, primarily because he knew what it meant—if Jesus did it, he would have to squeeze himself dry also.

He had fought off James’s and John’s mother’s appeal for her sons to sit on the right and left hands of Jesus when he came into power, leaving no room near the throne. How was he to fend off this one, too?

As Peter protested this paradigm of power-gifting, Jesus said to him, “My concern . . . is holiness, not hygiene” (John 13:11). “What I’ve done, you do. . . . If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life (13:14–15, 17; emphasis added).

Live a blessed life by squeezing yourself dry at work.

Wash the feet of your customers and clients, team members and employees, vendors and suppliers. Ministry in the marketplace requires a Faith Positive lifestyle of grateful service.

Squeeze on.

Dr. Joey Faucette is the #1 best-selling author of two books, the latest of which is Faith Positive in a Negative World with co-author, Mike Van Vranken. He is our keynote speaker at the May 1-2 Leadership Gathering at Eagle Eyrie. Register for this experience at http://eagleeyrie.org/events/leadership-gathering-2015/ Subscribe to the Faith Positive blog at http://www.GetPositive.Today and the Faith Positive Radio podcast at iTunes.

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Who Gets Your Attention?

Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10, NKJV)

As a disciple of Christ who goes to work daily, most days you are in constant motion. Counter the negative world’s distractions when you put Psalm 46:10 on your makeup or shaving mirror, the dash of your vehicle, your computer’s screensaver. Make PS4610 your smartphone’s password to combat the busyness of work and focus on the business of ministering through work. This single verse is the strategic key to physically achieving your spiritual dreams.

Here’s why:

“Be still . . .”
God respects your choices. Just as with Elijah and his depression-driven cave experience, God refuses to intrude on your noisy life and instead whispers in a still, small voice into your spirit. Select a whirlwind or fiery way to work, and God seems absent. Be still enough to listen, and God shows up strategically in a whisper, letting you in on the divine plan worthy of your entire attention. Your reality redefines to a faith-driven reality, and you achieve your spiritual dreams.

“. . . and know . . .”
How do you choose which are the most important positive thoughts and positive people to give your attention? How do you know?

Knowing God’s plans drives your attention to priority positive thoughts and people. You know as you are still. Do you invest ten minutes being still in the morning and ten more in the evening remembering God’s positive work that day? That’s how you know.

You increase faith with greater joy at work so you love God and others more when you know as you’re still.

“. . . that I am God.”
The greatest impediment to achieving your spiritual dreams is confusion over who gets your entire attention: God or you.

Do you pray or worry? When you pray, God has your attention. When you worry, it’s all about you.

Do you attract positive people or Eeyore Vampires? When God has your attention, you are gifted with positive believers with whom to minister. When you only have eyes for yourself, you attract people with problems that resemble your own.

Do you imagine God wants you to join the divine mission already going on around you? Or, do you thinks it’s up to you to get it done so bend in to ego?
You choose who guides your actions: God or you.

Your choice determines your results: infinite success in faith reality or finite shortcomings of your own making.

God is God and you are not.

Who gets more of your attention at work—you or God?

Be still today, and know God is God and you are not.

As you do, you work Faith Positive in a Negative World.

Dr. Joey Faucette, co-author of the #1 bestseller, Faith Positive in a Negative World, is our guest writer this week.

Here is a great video clip about our Leadership Gathering Promo with Dr. Joey: https://vimeo.com/123689101

Dr. Joey leads our Leadership Gathering at Eagle Eyrie on May 1-2. Register for this event when you click here http://bgav.org/events/the-leadership-gathering/
Subscribe to the Faith Positive blog at http://www.GetPositive.Today and the Faith Positive Radio podcast at iTunes.

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Sunday School as an Experience with the Risen Lord

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8 NIV)

Is Sunday School and small group Bible study about knowing God’s Word? Take a moment and reflect upon the question. Sunday School and small group Bible study is knowing God’s Word, but isn’t it more? Yes, I know that God’s Word is a Living Word as well and the Holy Spirit begins to speak to us as we read. In class, what is our objective?

In previous articles I wrote about vision, I shared that Sunday School is about The Great Commandment and the Great Commission. It is about a relationship with Christ that draws us closer to Him (Loving God and Neighbor), and guides us as we live out our daily lives in making disciples. I can go to any university and get information and Bible knowledge. Sunday School and small groups should be about a deeper relationship to Christ, each other and bringing hope and good news to our world. Here is a great article by Thom Shultz on the subject: http://holysoup.com/2015/03/31/when-jesus-becomes-a-fill-in-the-blank/ Permit me to share an example:

In many training events, I have used a Leonard Sweet illustration and embellished it from my own experience. I asked participants to share their earliest recollection of chocolate candy that someone bought for them. They will tell me Hershey’s, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, M&M’s, and more. I shared my favorites and then I shared this: If mom gave me a choice of buying one candy in the store as an eight year old, I chose a Pez dispenser with a superhero! Is the candy better? No! I wanted the toy. It was not just for the toy, but for my imagination. I ate the candy while I dreamed of being Spiderman, Batman or (my favorite hero) Superman. I imagined what it would be like to be that superhero.

Teachers, our job is not just to teach Bible knowledge. It is to facilitate good questions that leads to an experience with the Risen Lord and how I should apply the Scripture to my daily life. It is an honest conversation of where people are, what God’s Word has to say in order that they may attune their life to Jesus as they live out of the Great Commandment and Great Commission. What needs to happen to create such an environment in your class?

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Sunday School and Generational Challenges Revisited

One of the Six Marketplace Realities that has changed in the past 25 years is a Generational issue. This is the first time in history in which there are 5 living generations, 4 of them working together with growing differences in needs, preferences, values and types of organizations they associate with. A question to consider: Are we sufficiently attentive to the needs defined by the generational differences among our churches?

Let me share an example I often use in training sessions for teachers. It was used by Leonard Sweet fifteen years ago about the challenges churches will face, but I personalized it this way: When I was a child, the first chocolate candy bar I enjoyed was Hershey’s. Later I delved into Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, many others and my favorite, Almond Joy. These were all about the taste. (I love chocolate!) When I was about eight or so, mom gave us all permission to buy one candy at the grocery store. I did not choose chocolate to her amazement. I chose a superhero Pez dispenser! Suddenly it was not about the taste. It was about using your imagination, and having an experience! People want an experience of the Risen Savior!

People my age and younger (end of Baby Boomers and younger) enjoy experiences even in our candy choice. Ten years ago the favorite candy/bubble gum was dispensed in a toy cell phone that made all the noises of a cell phone. Today you can’t find it…everyone has a cell phone!

What I am saying is; Bible study must focus on imagination and be experiential for people my age and younger. If I was teaching elementary age children and the lesson was on Zacchaeus, I would take the children outside and have a teenager or young adult dressed as Zacchaeus in a tree and telling his story about being isolated and rejected until Jesus came to town.

If I was doing a lesson from Jeremiah about the Potter’s House, I would have Play Doh for everyone. I would want them to experience God creating something beautiful out of our frailties. Sunday School for younger generations must be experiential in nature and focused on a learning model, not a teaching model. (See my blog on Learning Model versus Teaching Model)

The younger generation (Millennials) want older adults to be their mentor. I actually got this idea from Bo Prosser. He had a young adult class go to an older men’s class one Sunday to hear their story about what it means for them to be a part of their church. These men inspired the younger generation and vice versa. A few weeks later the older men’s class wanted to hear the young adult’s story. Take a Sunday to try this and see what happens. Understanding between generations is the beginning of becoming a community of faith.

Challenge the older classes to share their passion with the younger generation. What do I mean? If your folks had a free day without a “honey do list”, and could do anything, what would they want to do? Get people to turn their passions into a ministry. The younger generation may want one of them to be a mentor in that passion.

Considering how mobile we have become, many young parents do not have grandparents nearby. Get older persons to adopt children in the church. In the meantime these older adults will connect with the parents and develop a friendship that leads to a spiritual family. I had two such families for our children, and they are still considered grandparents to this day. (My children are twenty and twenty-two.)

Added: Consider intergenerational Bible studies. One of the growing needs is for some intergenerational Bible study times. Consider the blog: Children/Parent Event and Sunday School in the archives for an example. Grandparents, adoptive grandparents great grandparents could join in.

Yes…there are challenges as we consider worship and the needs of each generation, but Sunday School can become a bridge between the generations!

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The Miracle in the Small

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Eph. 3:20, MSG)

It’s best to imagine what God can do through the Spirit in you at work. A God-sized vision emerges from your creative imagination, beyond your wildest dreams, as the Spirit moves you to the best moment and resources, ready to achieve your spiritual dream on the job.

These spiritual dreams of how God wants to increase your faith with greater joy at work so you love God and others more often start small and grow large. You have picked up an acorn before. It’s about the size of a dime. I picked up one under a 150-year-old oak tree on my farm. I stood there looking at the acorn, up at the tremendous oak, and wondered, “How did such a huge tree start as such a little acorn?” It defies all senses to understand or explain. You can only imagine.

Have you ever held a mustard seed in the palm of your hand? It’s about the size of a pencil point. You plant that pencil-point seed, and it grows into a six-foot-high bush. Who would have thought that was possible?

Jesus said that’s all the faith you need, about the size of a mustard seed, to move mountains. There are all kinds of mountains at work—disgruntled customers, slow cash flow, gossiping team members.

When you believe the positive in faith at work, all the imagination you need to do the impossible is about the size of a mustard seed. Your faith increases. Your joy at work soars. You love God and others more.

Rather than judging from appearances, Jesus sees the miracle in the small.

I remember my Great-Grandmother Frazier making yeast rolls. She would sift the flour and add the liquid and other ingredients, open a small packet of something magical—yeast—and fold in just a pinch or so. An extremely small amount when compared with the flour. Then she mixed all of this, grabbed a handful of it, pat it out and put it down on the pan.

“Grandma, what’s it doing?” I asked.

“It’s rising, son,” she said.

“How?” I said.

“The magic of yeast,” she said.

How in the world does such a tiny amount of yeast make all that dough rise?

It’s best to imagine what God can do through the Spirit in you at work, even though your efforts to be Christ in the workplace seem small like yeast. When you work Faith Positive, believing that your work will share God’s love with others in ways that defy your understanding, your marketplace ministry grows tall from acorn efforts, moves mountains, and rises like yeast.

God can do anything, you know—which is the miracle in the small.

Dr. Joey Faucette, co-author of the #1 bestseller, Faith Positive in a Negative World, leads two webinars to equip churches to disciple business leaders to increase faith with greater joy at work so they love God and others more.

We have a free webinar for lay persons on Tuesday, March 31st at 7 p.m. and coaches you in living out your faith through your work. Click here to register http://bgav.org/events/leadership-gathering-webinar-joey-faucette2

Dr. Joey leads our Leadership Gathering at Eagle Eyrie on May 1-2. Register for this event when you click here http://bgav.org/events/the-leadership-gathering/
Subscribe to the Faith Positive blog at http://www.GetPositive.Today and the Faith Positive Radio podcast at iTunes.
http://www.getpositive.today/faith-positive-radio-thom-shultz/

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Sunday School and the Lenten Journey

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)

Lent is the religious season beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 18th this year), lasting 40 days, excluding Sundays, and ending on Easter Sunday. The word Lent originates from the Old English lencten, meaning springtime. In early days, it was a 36-day period, but during the reign of Charlemagne, around A.D. 800, four days were added making it 40 days to symbolize Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.

Christians worldwide observe Lent by fasting, giving alms, abstaining from amusements, and spending time in reflection and confession. The period was intended as a time of spiritual preparation for Easter in remembrance of the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a time to discover more about what it means to be a disciple, to deny self, to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

As teachers we need to be aware of the church calendar and opportunities to share these specific periods of time with our students. The Lenten journey gives us opportunity to consider the sacrifices and costs of being a follower of Christ as we deepen our faith along the way. In some churches fasting from something is encouraged; giving up something that we over-focus upon and using that time to grow deeper in relationship with Christ. I know of some who gave up certain foods or drinks that they like. Some give up television, technology or other things and spend that time reading their Bibles, praying and serving others.

There are some who recognize the need not just to give up something, but to do something more for God. Take up a cause, serve more and find ways to bring God’s kingdom to earth. As Christians, we need to take up our cross daily and follow, not just talk about it. Spend time talking to your class about ways to take up their cross and follow Jesus during this season of Lent.

Richard Foster would say, The Disciplines of the faith allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us. The Lenten journey gives us more opportunity for transformation to take place and moves us from an admirer of Jesus to a follower of Jesus!

“The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing, will not reconstruct his life, will not be what he admires, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires.”
― from Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

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