Archive for the ‘Children’s ministry’ Category

Just a few more resources and links from the recent ministry training:

P.S. You can now find the iServe Africa Twitter stream on this blog – look down on the right hand side. Happy Tweeting…

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Doctrine of Scripture 2014

Highlights from the first full day of ministry training course for the new apprentices @ the new and upgraded Halfway House, Sigona. With particular thanks to Harrison, Fidel, Mercy and Christine. If I knew how to use Twitter these would be tweets…

The battle for the mind is not to set your hope fully on your dreams but on real events – Cross & Coming (1 Pet 1:13-21) #GospelReality

You can believe the Bible is authoritative and not be evangelical… if you put other sources of authority on the same level. #SolaScriptura

We don’t worship the Bible. The Bible is a witness. To Jesus. (John 5)

It was written *for* you not *to* you. (Rom 15:4; 1 Pet 1:12)

Fear is part and parcel of ministry. It’s v natural when ur dealing with the Word & people. <– maybe Timothy was not so unusual (2Tim 1:7)

All the power of God, his glorious might, is there to strengthen us… for endurance, patience and suffering (Col. 1:11; 2 Tim 1:8)

What went wrong btwn the East Africa Revival and panda mbegu. A failure to guard the gospel.

The saving gospel is what happened 2000 years ago (1 Cor 151-11; John 20:10-31) not what happened 2 years ago

so a story of God’s work in my life *even when it is Christ-exalting* is not the right foundation 4 anyone’s faith. #SubtleDanger

Hire Character. Train Skill. (Peter Schutz)

Servant: faithful, reliable, teachable, available, motivated

colouring, collections, snacks, singing… The ever-present need for Acts 6:1-7 in children’s ministry

Teaching children takes more preparation than teaching adults. Without it you’ll either communicate nothing or lies #LetThemCome

The most important, most foundational thing children need to know is that they are children of Adam #LetThemCome


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gospel driven

From the Romans 12 Bible study we saw that worship can be gospel-driven tea serving or toilet cleaning.

Fidel kicked off preaching through 2 Timothy with a wonderful reminder of the gospel:

  • An unpopular message we might well be ashamed of and will need to suffer for (and that’s what the spiritual power is for – suffering) – v8
  • God saved us, not at all by our works but purely by his purpose and grace (v9)
  • He purposed to save us before time began – v9
  • All this is IN CHRIST – v9-10
  • Our salvation was manifest and accomplished through the coming of Jesus who destroyed death and brought life through the Cross – v10
  • It is about immortality – v10 – that’s why Paul can talk about the ‘promise of life’ (v1) when he’s about to die (4:6)
  • It’s a message – heralded, sent, taught – v11

We did a ‘How To’ on introducing a speaker.

Harrison introduced doctrine and particularly the doctrine of Scripture, warning us of a creeping liberalism.

And Mrs Mercy Eunyalata gave a hugely helpful Call to Faithful Children’s Ministry.

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NCTC 2013

It was wonderful to be at the NCTC yesterday. So encouraging to see 250 teachers keen to grow and be equipped to minister in an incredibly important mission field. Great too to see loads of different ministries (KSCF, FOCUS, Trinity Fellowship, SU, YFC etc.) working in such close partnership,

I said I’d upload notes from the seminar and workshop so here they are:

  • God’s Big Picture – The Bible as the story of the Marriage Banquet, The Two Men, The Two Exoduses…
  • What is Bible exposition – Exposition as preaching where the Bible is boss, Christ is passionately preached, and so the Spirit speaks… (particularly looking at the NT letters)


P.S. In the first seminar I was asked a question on the canon of the OT. Why do Protestants have 39 books and Roman Catholic Bibles 46? What are we to make of Tobit, Judith etc.? I didn’t make a good job of answering so here’s another attempt:

  1. The apocryphal OT books (e.g. Judith, Tobit, Wisdom etc.) and additions to the canonical books (e.g. to Daniel and Esther) are different in nature to the 39 OT books. For one thing they were either originally written in Greek or only the Greek version now survives in contrast to the rest of the OT which is written in Hebrew (except for small portions in Aramaic which is also a Semitic script). Furthermore, the (Roman Catholic) New Jerusalem Study Bible notes in its introductions to these books that they were a) not accepted within the Hebrew canon; b) they were disputed within church history; c) they contain historical and geographical inaccuracies.
  2. The 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures (traditionally 24 books before the divisions of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles and the Minor Prophets) all participate in the great storyline of the Bible. They all inter-relate and weave together into a beautiful, consistent whole – a portrait of Christ and salvation through faith in him.  While some apocryphal books could be taken as teaching Christ (esp. Wisdom), on the whole they don’t and, more importantly, they mix in praying to the dead, purgatory, the mediation of angels and dead saints, and salvation by works (e.g. Tobit 12; 2 Maccabees 12) – ideas contradicting salvation through faith in Christ alone (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15).
  3. Most crucially, “Christ passed onto his followers, as Holy Scripture, the Bible which he had received, containing the same books as the Hebrew Bible today.” (R. T. Beckwith, ‘Canon of the OT’, NBD)  Jesus accepted the three-fold division of Law, Prophets, Writings (Luke 24:44), he frequently quoted these Scriptures as God’s Word (but never the apocryphal books), and his reference to “from Abel to Zechariah” (Luke 11:51) almost certainly is a reference to the first and last martyrs in the traditional Jewish ordering of the 24 books (G. Bahnsen, ‘Concept and Importance of Canonicity’).
  4. Reformers like Calvin and the Cranmer did not completely discard the apocryphal books they just said that they are not part of God’s Word. They can be read and you can even be edified by them but read them in the way you read something by John C Maxwell or Joel Osteen or Rick Warren or whoever. Be discerning. There may be something helpful there but it’s not divinely inspired – there’ll almost certainly be error mixed in and when it contradicts the 66 books and the great story of Christ and salvation in Him then leave it. So we’re free to read Wisdom and Tobit… but why not just stick with the 66?

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If you want to see some hardcore moralism where should you go? Sadly, the answer is most likely Sunday School. This is not to say that there aren’t some brilliant brilliant Sunday School teachers. There are children’s pastors who have committed their lives to feeding children with the Word of God. We’re privileged to have one of them often come and train the apprentices at iServe Africa on children’s ministry – passionate about Jesus and the importance of children’s work, wonderfully clear on the children’s need of the gospel, careful Bible handling and presenting the Word of Christ in a well-prepared, appropriate, engaging way. But sadly, as she herself says, often children’s work is massively under-resourced, under-supported, treated as child minding and colouring, and left to completely untrained volunteers. Here are a couple of  real examples of Bible teaching for 2-3 year olds. I relay these not to mock or condemn but just to remind of us of an issue which often gets ignored in analyses of the church.


Genesis 27: Jacob steals Esau’s blessing

Main point: Jacob did a bad thing – he lied to his daddy and he stole something from his brother.

Application: Don’t lie to your parents and don’t be unkind to your brothers and sisters. Obey your parents and do nice things for your brothers and sisters.

Luke 1:26-30: The angel Gabriel appears to Mary


Main point: Mary was a good, beautiful, obedient girl who said her prayers every day and was kind to everyone. The angel came to tell Mary that she was more blessed/nice/beautiful/obedient than all the other girls and boys around.

Application: Be good like Mary – read your Bible, pray and obey your parents.


My first response is a great sadness. A great sadness that there was no mention of Jesus to these children, no gospel for these children. And the massively frustrating thing is that He was there in those passages just waiting to give life but he was ignored and replaced with a ‘moral’ that ran completely contrary to the text.

In the Genesis passage, surely the big point is that God’s blessing goes to the sinner, the deceiver, the one who doesn’t deserve it. Just as had been decided before his birth (so without works) now in Genesis 27 Jacob is blessed despite his works. The ancient commentators have long seen in Jacob wrapping himself in his elder brother’s clothes a picture of how we are to approach the Father clothed in our elder brother Jesus. Election, grace, union with Christ – it’s all there. Obviously you wouldn’t use those words with 2 year-olds but could we not tell them that God is a God who gives massive hugs to bad children.

And in the Luke passage surely Jesus should be absolutely unmissable. This is the incarnation! Mary is highly favoured / blessed / lucky because she gets to be the mother of God (Luke 1:43)! Has she earned that privilege? How could you possibly earn that? The God in her womb is her Saviour (Luke 1:46-47). Again and again in Luke’s Gospel, this God shows he does not come to rubber stamp the good works of the ‘righteous’ (“Yes, well done, you really are very good”) but to save lost sinners (Luke 5:27-32; 7:47; 15:7; 19:1-10). If Mary is an example to us it is as a sinner receiving words of grace with faith (Luke 1:45 cf. 1:20) – to do that is to find a blessing even greater than being the mother of God (Luke 11:27-28).

Can we not give this grace, this Jesus, this loving God to children? Do we not trust them with grace? Do we think we must give them law and moralism till they are 12 or 18 and then, perhaps, we can give them a bit of the gospel? Are we surprised when as young adults they constantly fall back into legalism and self-righteousness when that has been their food and drink throughout their childhood; when they have been trained to read the Bible as Pharisees, to find a law they can keep rather than to find Jesus and have life in him? And even if they do grasp the gospel as teenagers, can we justify enslaving children under the yoke of joyless moralism for year after year, denying them the bread of life? Do we value our children as Jesus does (Matthew 18:5-6)? Do we let the children come to Jesus (Matthew 19:14)?

My second thought is, we really need to invest in training Sunday School teachers. I know there are a number of churches and organisations that are passionately concerned about this and are doing great work. And, as I said at the beginning, there is some brilliant children’s ministry going on. But the need is massive; the harvest field is vast. Teaching children is far harder than teaching adults. To teach the Bible message simply and clearly – one point that gets to the heart of a child – you have to get it very very clear in your own head and that is exceptionally hard work. To handle the word of God carefully, particularly to handle Old Testament narrative texts well; to do the extra work of boiling it down (without watering it down) so that you can put it on a teaspoon and feed it to a three year-old – that is very very hard. We should have the highest possible esteem for those who labour to teach children faithfully and engagingly. In some ways it is not ‘rocket science’ – it’s mainly about context and letting the story make the point and spending sufficient time reading and praying over the text, sufficient time thinking carefully about how it relates to the listener, sufficient time preparing how to make it as visual and engaging as it is. In the meantime, maybe we’d be best simply reading the Bible to children, telling the stories and forget trying to find the ‘moral’.

Then my third thought is, there’s a deeper problem here. It’s not that teachers don’t believe in Jesus, it’s not that they don’t love their children (they manifestly do, pouring out their time and energies), it’s not (always) that they don’t have enough time to prepare or enough skills in Bible interpretation, the big issue lurking behind this is, Do we really grasp the gospel? Do teachers have strong gospel instincts – so when faced with a Bible story and a class of children, even without any preparation, their instinct is to preach Jesus, the Cross, a loving, outpouring God of grace – so that, even if it isn’t the most technically ‘correct’ exposition or the most well constructed lesson, the children go away not thinking ‘God blesses good people’ but with some sense that the Bible is about Jesus, that he is amazing and that he has a ferocious love for them.

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