4 Ways to Bring God’s Word to Life Beyond Sunday School/Small Groups

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I…

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4 Ways to Bring God’s Word to Life Beyond Sunday School/Small Groups

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
(Psalm 119: 9-16 NIV)

Teachers, more than anything, we need to provide an environment that inspires our people to study God’s Word daily. The Psalmist in Psalm 119 expresses joy & praise for God’s Word as he expounds about it throughout the Hebrew alphabet as an acrostic. Here are some thoughts to inspire your class:

Share appropriate passages with your people outside of the classroom. Look for opportunities to text, e-mail, Facebook passages as they apply to life at that moment.

During a thunderstorm, share Psalm 29. This is a powerful imagery as the Psalmist praises God and God’s power as he watches a thunderstorm.

During the birth of a child, share Psalm 139:13-18.

During a crisis or grief, share Psalm 46 or Isaiah 40:28-31.

Set the example of daily Bible reading and share with your class your plan. There are many “read the bible through” plans out there and devotional books. Pick one and begin sharing with your class some options. If you have a smart phone, you can get the app, “YouVersion,” for a daily Bible plan, verse of the day and devotionals of many kinds. You can get the app “D365” for a daily devotional. These are free.

Encourage memorization of Scripture. One of the passages I memorized as a child was Psalm 119:11(NIV): “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Jesus often quoted the Hebrew Scriptures when facing temptation. If Jesus did, so should we! Encourage Scripture memory by placing a verse from the passage each Sunday on a poster on the wall. How can the truth of Jesus set us free if we do not know the truth from God’s Word?

I have also discovered from personal family experience that Scripture memory and hymns brings comfort when our memories fade later in life. Alzheimer patients may not remember their name or their family. They become frustrated trying to remember, but Scriptures and favorite hymns stay with them. My mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease and could not remember us at times. If you began reciting the Lord’s Prayer, she knew it by heart!

Scripture brings guidance for life. Psalm 119:105 (NIV) reiterates the passage I started with: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” There have been many times in my life when I faced crossroads. Prayer, Scripture reading and reflection brought answers from God. If we are to be teachers of God’s Word, we must spend time daily doing so and not just to prepare a lesson!

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4 Ways to Discover Advent for your Class

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:14-21 NIV)

How can your class live into this passage? Here are some ways:

Find what the class is passionate about. Is it hunger ministry? Is it caroling to shut-ins? Is it helping with the Christmas play? Discover what they are passionate about and let others in leadership know.

Send Christmas cards to every church family. Years ago at Bethel Baptist I sent a card to every church family. They were amazed to get a card from their pastor. How much more amazed would they be getting it from one Sunday School class/Small Group?

Help a family in need. Proclaiming good news to the poor starts at home. What family in your community needs to be blessed? Talk to members of your group, and discover a needy family. Provide what is needed, but build relationships that will last. It is not enough to help. You need to get to know the family and discover other ways to help. Here is one great example: http://www.yourgv.com/search/?l=25&sd=desc&s=start_time&f=html&t=article%2Cvideo%2Cyoutube%2Ccollection&app=editorial&q=North+Fork+Baptist&nsa=eedition

Care for others who lost a loved one this year. Many are depressed at Christmas, because a loved one is no longer with them. Some are depressed because they have no one to celebrate Christmas. Some are in prison, and want to share love with family. Be sensitive to those around you and share God’s love in difficult times. For those in prison, send them a box of Christmas cards and stamps to send to loved ones. Invite others who have no family to join you at Christmas parties. Send cards to those who are grieving! You have an opportunity to bring hope, peace, joy and love this Advent season to others.

 

 

 

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After the Election: for Small Groups and Sunday School

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:9-10 NIV)

This Presidential election should be a wakeup call for all Christians. I have seen too many brothers and sisters in Christ turn on one another on Facebook (And we wonder why the unchurched doesn’t want to associate with us?) By the time you read this blog the election will be almost over. Will you be devoted to one another (even if someone voted the other way)? Will we honor one another above ourselves (our opinions)?

As we seek to move forward from the election, will you be Christ-like or focus on a worldly approach? Here are my thoughts:

We are not of this world.

 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

This election will not change our world as much as we can as we follow Christ. What this world needs to see is us united in transforming our world. Go back and look in Mark 2. We have a group of unnamed people who chose to help a paralyzed man. Verse 5 lets us know the power of faith. Help your class members realize the power they have to transform their community one person at a time!

God is still in control!

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

No matter who wins the election, God will prevail. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do our part. God uses us to make changes through the Holy Spirit, but God will prevail. Let your class know.

Love must prevail!

35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV)

People are watching Christians. How will we respond? Are we respectful and loving to those who may disagree? Your witness to the world is being tested. I can honestly say that many before the election have failed on Facebook. I pray that we can begin reconciliation and know God is watching!

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4 Ways to Increase your Child’s Spiritual Life

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence. Denis Waitley

We, as parents are responsible for roots of responsibility when our children are young. As they reach adolescence, we begin to help them spread their wings. If we don’t provide the roots, the wings will lead them on many paths that are destructive. So how do we prepare them spiritually with roots of responsibility that leads to healthy wings? Here are some thoughts:

Begin preparing them before they can read. Katrina and I used to pray with our children (even as infants and in the womb) and sing the chorus of “Turn your Eyes upon Jesus’ every night. Prepare early for speaking a future blessing and spiritual word to them. With my schedule as a minister early on, I missed many of these opportunities which I regret! Don’t let your work or ministry cause you to miss these important times!

Encourage a regular devotional life. I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord at 15. I began reading through the Bible (as my pastor requested) every year at one to three chapters every night. I also learned the books of the New Testament to the tune of “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.” I still remember the books because of this idea!

Katrina has challenged her middle schools students to have a devotional every day at Madison Heights Baptist Church. They are using this app and website: http://d365.org/ It would provide a devotional every day of the year.

Claim a verse for your child and claim their future. We discovered this idea in Georgia, and it is a great word! It is picturing a special future for our children. Children going into the first grade would have a Bible verse that teachers from their past would claim that encouraged them as they received their first Bible. The Bible verse would be used when they were baptized, graduated from high school and more. It was laminated and given to them as a bookmark for that first Bible.

Serve together in the church and outside the church walls. Children and youth need to see the brokenness of humanity and the power to bring hope, God’s love and grace to others.

For children we set up a Children’s Coloring Committee that helped all children to draw and color pictures for persons in the hospital and shut-ins. (I would also recommend the book, Praying in Color to enhance their prayer life. There is a children’s edition.)

For youth, get them involved in ministry inside the church and outside the church. Have a free media tech day where youth help members and others know how to use their cell phones and set up Facebook, Twitter and more. Advertise in the newspaper.

For youth, send them to Impact Virginia to help renovate houses for the poor: http://impactmissioncamps.org/

For youth and children: Adopt a shut-in. Many years ago, I took youth to a nursing home once a week. They adopted a resident and spent time with them. Many youth realized how fortunate they were, and developed great relationships outside the church.

How are you developing spiritual roots with your children and youth? (Let me know at tony.brooks@bgav.org

 

 

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Four Ways you can Enhance the Sunday School Experience for Children

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14 NIV)

Many of you have probably heard this comment before: “Children are our future. We need to do a good job to prepare them as leaders one day.” I agree that children’s SS teachers have a very important responsibility to prepare a great spiritual foundation for their future. I, however, would suggest they are our present! Children have the ability to energize a congregation with their smiles, laughter, enthusiasm, honesty, dependence on others and energy.

Here are some thoughts about your relationship to children and how to enhance Sunday School their parents and them.

Prepare your teachers in their relationship with new children each year. For example, as a child moves from preschoolers to primary, make sure your preschool teachers share information about each child: their personal likes, abilities, knowledge, favorite learning styles, artistic abilities and games, as well as hang-ups…etc. It is much easier for the new children to adapt to new teachers if you already know something about them.

Make plans to visit each child for the new year. Of course, this requires setting up an appointment with the parents. This idea has many benefits. First, it shows the child how important they are to you. If you visit, they will know you care. Second, it shows the parents how important it is. Let the parents know what you will be studying for the quarter. Help them to see how they can partner with you in the child’s spiritual development. It may lead to parents coming to Sunday School who have not been attending. (Be prepared to share about adult classes they can join.)

 Send a letter to the parents and child. The letter to the parents is to share some of your personal information, how long you have taught, been a Christian and what you like about teaching children. Enclose a letter to the child welcoming them to the class and sharing some of the fun things you will be doing.

Find ways children can feel a part of the church today. One of the ways I did this as pastor was to set up a Children’s Coloring Committee. This committee was made up of older children, asked by the Nominating Committee to serve. Their responsibility was to get all of the children coloring or drawing uplifting pictures that the deacons and I would take to shut-ins and persons in the hospital. The teachers helped find pictures for them to color. Patients and homebound members loved to get a picture from a child at church as well!

Other ways to include children are:

The children can learn Bible songs they could share in worship.

They can help raise money for a mission project.

Set up recycling at the church and talk about stewardship of the earth. The money can go towards a mission project.

Get small trees for them to plant at home on Arbor Day and talk about being good stewards of the earth.

More than anything children and their parents can contribute now as part of the church. Feel free to share with me ways you are helping them to feel important in your church. (See the blog, “Children and Sunday School” in my archives for more motivation.)

 

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4 Ways to Make the Most of Homecoming through Sunday School/Small Groups

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

Homecoming is a special time as we reflect on all of the great cloud of witnesses that sacrificed for the Kingdom of God through our church. It is also a time to help us reflect on our lives, how others helped us, and what we are doing for the Kingdom. Here are some ways to help make homecoming special through Sunday School and Small Groups:

  1. Give time for people to share in class. This is a day to reflect. Perhaps Hebrews 12 or Romans 12 could set the stage for members of the class to discuss how God brought them to the church and the class. What are their dreams for the future, and what part do they play in making a Kingdom difference? This can be the beginning of something new.  (I have heard of a senior adult class and young adult class meeting during Sunday School to share. It was transformational for both classes.)

 

  1. Honor persons who have made a difference in your life. In my former church, we took our young adult SS class to visit a homebound member who had loved on these young adults years before as their preschool teacher. (We had several join us that did not come to SS but wanted to participate. We brought thank you cards and a gift.) This wonderful saint was so surprised by all the persons she had influenced.

 

  1. During the invitation at worship have the class go and thank persons who mentored/encouraged them. This is a very moving experience. Many did not realize they had made such an impact.

 

  1. Show appreciation for your staff. Many churches have homecoming in October. It is clergy appreciation month. When was the last time that you showed gratitude for your staff? They are on call around the clock. They are always there during your crisis, but who comes to them in crisis? Show how much you appreciate them. Send them cards, provide based on their needs for the family, and offer tangible ways to show love. Here are some ideas:

 

  1. Do they have children at home? Offer to spend the evening taking care of their children while the couple goes out for a date.
  2. Show monetary appreciation. My first church could not provide for all of our needs. They, however, showered us with a love offering for my birthday in June and just before Christmas to help with Christmas gifts!! They also gave us lots of vegetables in the Summer from their garden!
  3. When they have served five or more years, give them a time away. I have seen this done with money for an extended vacation, sabbatical and even a trip to the Holy Land! (Yes, a son of a shut-in actually paid for my wife and me to go to Israel!)

 

Homecoming is to be a pivotal moment in the life of the church. How are you experiencing it and doing Kingdom work? Let me know at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

 

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