It’s More than Just the Kids!!

Many years ago while attending seminary I was fortunate to be in a class that focused on youth ministry. The professor caught my attention the first day when he said that if you are taking the class to be a “pastor in waiting”, get out! The man truly saw the need of ministering to youth and not just using the position as a way up the ministerial ladder.  After being under his tutelage, I have adopted his concept for not only youth but for both preschool and children’s ministry. I just have adopted it to meet that particular age group. These principles are true today just as they were back then.

The role of ministering to preschoolers and children takes on three points to a triangle. The most important work we do is with the children. That is why we have been sent to serve them. They are the apex of it all. We are there to help mold them in God’s image.

But the two other corners to the triangle are just as vital. Many church leaders overlook them in the haste to meet the needs of the children. Any oversight in these other areas will greatly affect the ministry to your children.

The first angle is that of the role of parents or guardians. These are the most influential adults in a child’s life. If we do not spend any time supporting them and encouraging them, we miss out on an unfilled ministry to not only the child but to the whole family. What are you doing to strengthen their home environment? How can you reach out to these adults?

The last but not the least corner is that of the adults in your church who minister to these children. They are giving of their valuable time to make a difference in the lives of these young people. These volunteers need to know you have their support. Are you meeting regularly to share concerns about them as well as the children? Have you lined up any training opportunities to enhance their roles as leaders in the children’s ministry? What are the ways you are saying “thank you” to them for their tireless efforts? Any good worker needs to feel that their efforts are noticed and appreciated by the church.

When your church decides to reach and teach preschoolers and children for the Kingdom’s work, be sure to get all the angles right. The stronger each area is the stronger the whole becomes.

Our guest writer this week is Steve Zimmerman. Steve (lives in Danville) is the founding partner of the Barnabas Partnership. He and his other partners have been doing short-term ministry support activities for Baptist churches across the South since 2009. To learn more about their work, check them out at www.barnabaspartnership.com.

 

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Four Transformative Benefits of Training for SS/Small Group Teachers

II Timothy 2:15 says: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)

Teachers/Disciples must continue to learn. There is nothing more frustrating and disappointing than to hear someone say, “I have learned all I want to learn.” As long as there is breath, we continue to learn and allow God to shape us (See Jeremiah 18.)
Today I want to encourage you to seek teacher training on a regular basis. If you are a public school teacher, lawyer, doctor, nurse or other professional, you are expected to experience continued education/learning every year. We have a bigger responsibility than all of the above as Sunday School/Bible study teachers. We are asked to facilitate a discussion of God’s Word (alive and transforming.)
Here are four benefits of training on a regular basis:

1. We always need a reminder of the “why.” Sunday School from its inception was a missionary and disciple-making endeavor. Over time with our busy schedules, we- as teachers, can become complacent. We can see teaching as just another duty or service. We need reminders that Sunday School/Small Groups are a life changing and transformative experience.

Transformation is essential. James 1:22 reads, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (NIV) We need to be reminded that Bible study is not just about knowing the Bible, but living accordingly. How do we teach for life transformation?

2. We discover new ways of teaching and new resources. At every training conference I have attended over the years, I could always find new teaching ideas: curriculum, learning style approaches, outreach ideas, ways to care for class members, and wonderful anecdotes to use with my class. One or two ideas, which can be implemented in your class, makes it worthwhile.

3. We receive encouragement as we meet new teachers and share with each other. Sometimes as a youth teacher, I felt isolated at church. I was the only youth teacher, and faced joys and frustrations with no one to really get where I was.

Proverbs 27:17 reads, As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (NIV) When I attended conferences for Youth teachers, I met others who faced similar struggles and joys. We could stay in touch and continue to encourage each other!! Training leads to new relationships with other teachers.

4. Training Rekindles our Calling. Teachers are missionaries and disciple makers. We sometimes put this calling on the back burner, and need to be reminded. Allow the Spirit to fan the flame within you as you seek training. You will come back with a renewed sense of purpose and calling.

You can find three large training events coming up in August at: http://bgav.org/sundayschool/ Come join us and see the benefits.

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4 Things that are Essential for every SS, Small Group and Church from Acts 2

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostl…

Source: 4 Things that are Essential for every SS, Small Group and Church from Acts 2

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4 Things that are Essential for every SS, Small Group and Church from Acts 2

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42 NIV)

Today I was reminded by a Pastor in Staunton River Association about the basics that lead to transformation through Christ in this passage. We often make things complicated in the church/SS/Small Groups. Four things are needed!

Hold Fast to the Teachings of the Apostles! Though the Apostles only had the Old Testament to refer, they were focused on the resurrected Christ. We often get caught up in trivial matters. How are you helping people be transformed by the resurrected Christ? Life transformation is your goal. Do people in your class have a change in knowledge, attitude and behavior? If not, we are not following the teachings of the Apostles! We are to make disciples!

Are you sharing all Things in Common, and Providing Spiritual Communion? I am not talking about giving away possessions. I am talking about sharing emotionally in a way that leads to vulnerability. When we are willing to get beyond our masks, we discover that we are all human, and in need of grace and encouragement, to be transformed. When we are willing to do so, we have communion with Jesus who walks beside us and within us through the Holy Spirit.

Are you Sharing Meals Together to Lead to Communion? Communion means fellowship. As I have shared many times before, we need social/fellowship events that draw us deeper emotionally and spiritually together. Every Sunday School Class or Small Group should have an intimate fellowship event every quarter. What are you doing to make this happen? Teachers, people will care what you have to say as they know you care about them.

How are you Praying beyond the Class Time? Prayer is essential in all that we do! Any great movement by Jesus happened after long periods of prayer. Have you given ways for your class to pray each day…for each other…for reaching new people? Have you asked members what God is asking them to do? God may be leading them to start a new ministry or a new class.

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17 NIV)

I want to see Pentecost happen all over again! What about you?

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The Four C’s of Spiritual Formation

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27 NIV)

Spiritual formation/discipleship requires intentionality. It requires followers of Christ to be involved in worship, Bible study, care for each other in the Body of Christ, and serving the community. I had a chance to be with Deborah Upton (Associate Pastor, Spiritual Development and Member Mobilization) at Bon Air Baptist today, and discovered their intentionality of Spiritual Formation/Discipleship at the church in the four C’s.

Celebrate-Focus on God: This is a focus on worship from corporate worship, individual times of worship, retreats and small group worship.

16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17 NIV)

Cultivate-Establish Deep Roots: We all need to be in a small group Bible study through Sunday School/Small groups to practice spiritual disciplines.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[a] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[b] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12 NIV)

Care-Living in Community: We need to value each other in shared meals and socials, using our gifts to help others in the Body of Christ and serving as a spiritual mentor.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit ,if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-4 NIV)

Connect-Engage in Service: Developing an awareness of our community’s needs and around the world is essential!

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

How intentional are you? Having the four C’s make people aware of where they are and what they need to do to live fully as followers of Christ!

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Four Ways to Improve the “Why” of Sunday School/Small Groups

I have stated before that the “Why” behind Sunday School and Small Groups are two-fold:
Interior Motivation:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)

Exterior Motivation:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

So how do we etch this in stone for each Bible study group? Here are some thoughts:

Pray each Sunday for the Unchurched. Praying for the unchurched leads us to concentrate on reaching the unchurched. Teachers must include this piece as part of their opening and closing prayer each time you meet.

Pray each Sunday for someone in the class to become a teacher of a new class. I believe (because of the “why”) that every teacher is a missionary and disciple maker. Teachers are to mentor someone from their class to become a teacher. If you are a disciple maker, then it is natural for you to mentor someone else to teach!

Have a prospect notebook in every class and encourage class members to pray for individuals in the notebook. (If you need a template, contact me at tony.brooks@bgav.org and I will send you one.) Every class needs a list of prospects, and as people pray, they will seek to contact those prospects.

Encourage your class to do an ongoing service project every year. This is a way to get every class member to be a missionary and follow The Great Commission. Perhaps a local community ministry and supporting a worthy partnership outside the community. A great one outside the community is More Than Nets. Here is the link to read about how to get involved, and what it is about: http://bgav.me/1qdYiMV When class members get involved with service projects, they begin to look beyond themselves.

For the classes to grow and multiply, expressing the “why” is necessary!

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Six Ways Towards Intergenerational Learning

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17 NIV)

Gone are the days of age graded Sunday School/Small Groups for adults. Today it is more about affinity groups. I would suggest that we need to go further. We are all a part of the Body of Christ! We need to learn from each other and dream dreams together. Have opportunities for intergenerational experiences. Here are a few ideas:

Combine some SS Classes/Small Groups for a few sessions to learn from each other. I have heard of young adult classes going to a senior adult class to learn how the church started, why they are still here and more. Young adults need to hear the dreams of the Kingdom from the past/present and share their dreams of the Kingdom today. Set up some times for classes to meet together and learn from each other.

Work on a Service Project Together. I have said from the beginning that every SS Class/Small Group needs an ongoing service project. Each will see a different perspective if it is intergenerational. As you work together, it is important to ask, “Why are you doing this? What did you learn?”

Bring all adult classes together for a short period of time. Some have brought all the classes together including children and youth to talk around tables. Others chose to bring all adult classes together over a certain topic. This is the first time in our history where five living generations exist. Learn from each other.

Mentor and teach new skills to younger adults. The millennial generation wants to learn new skills from older adults. Perhaps an older adult class would partner with a younger adult class, and share some time together in fellowship events as well as teaching skills like cooking, needlework, fishing and more. What are your passions and skills? Mentor someone else in those areas.

Have a class where youth teach senior adults about technology. In our last church I set up a free technology class twice a year about how to use cell phones, set up Facebook and more. Youth taught the class, and I observed. Every event brought senior adults, (whom had never been to our church) who didn’t know how to use their cell phones or set up a Facebook page to connect to grandchildren around the world. (I am Facebook friends with some today, because of this class!)

Insist on an intergenerational experiences as you eat during fellowship times. Too often meals at church lead to the same tradition of sitting with whom you know. Provide some questions and sit beside people of all ages. You may be surprised at what you learn.

It is time for us all to come together and learn from each other as we seek to live for Christ and the Kingdom of God. How are you sharing in intergenerational activities? Feel free to share some with me.

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