Subtitle: 
A Philosophy of Ministry to Parents and Children
Author: 
David Michael
Date Given: 
September 8, 2012

 

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.—Colossians 1:28–29

The first document is a statement on children and our theology of children’s ministry, which was adopted by Bethlehem’s Council of Elders in 1992. The second document expresses a philosophy of parenting and children’s ministry, which was initially prepared in 1996 by David & Sally Michael when they were being considered for their positions as Bethlehem’s Pastor and Minister for Parenting and Children’s Discipleship. Following the 2005 merger of the ministries to children and youth into the Family Discipleship Department, this document was revised to include a vision for youth ministry.

THEOLOGY OF CHILDREN’S MINISTRIES AND ITS IMPLICATIONS 

Council of Elders, Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1992 (Revised 1999; Edited 2011 and 2012)

The Elders of Bethlehem offer this Theology of Children’s and Youth Ministry with the hope and prayer that the members of Bethlehem will wholeheartedly join us in this expression of vision for children, so that the next generation will “hope in God” (Psalm 78:7).

THE VALUE OF CHILDREN

1. We believe that God is honored when persons created in his image are treated with honor and love for the sake of Christ. Therefore we stand firmly against the cultural trend of cheapening and dishonoring human life. We want to affirm forcefully that children are a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). Children are a gift from God. They are freely given as a sign of His blessing. Parents do not somehow earn the right to have a child. Instead, God pours out His grace on them by allowing them to become parents. 

2. Human life, from its earliest pre-born form in the womb until death, is the unique work of God and has value in reflecting the personhood of God. Human life is utterly unique among all of created life because humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27, James 3:9) with the capacity to consciously know and enjoy and glorify God. The value of human life is precisely its awesome potential to reflect the glory of God through faith (Romans 4:20) and God-centered good deeds (Matthew 5:16). 

3. We value children before they are born. The Bible teaches that already in the womb God is knitting together a human person. Psalm 139:13 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” And Job 31:15 says, “Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?” We believe that God is honored when persons created in His image are treated with honor and love for the sake of Christ. Abortion on demand reflects the devaluing of human life. We proclaim the truth of Scripture: God’s image is not to be snuffed out, whether that image dwells in a mother’s womb, an incubator, or a ward for the terminally ill. 

4. We value children as much as we value every other age group. Jesus taught us about the value of children when He rebuked His disciples because they tried to prevent children from touching Him (Mark 10:13–16). We know that children are a blessing and a heritage from God. It is our hope and our prayer that God will so work that at Bethlehem we will always welcome children, teach and minister to children, and love children, because God loves children and He wants to save them and meet all their deepest needs.

THE NATURE OF CHILDREN

1. Children have a sinful nature. 

a. The value of children as persons created in the image of God is not forfeited in this life even though all persons come into the world with a corrupt, sinful nature inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12–19). The image of God is defaced but not destroyed. Humans are not mere animals, even in their worst sin. There remains until death the potential of regeneration and re-creation in the moral likeness of Christ to the glory of God (Ephesians 2:5–10, 4:24; John 3:3–8). 

b. Nevertheless, we are all by nature born as children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) and are headed for destruction unless new birth, repentance, and faith unite us to Christ, whose death covers the guilt of all who belong to Him (Ephesians 5:25–26, Hebrews 10:14).

c. Thus, we believe in the wonderful potential of children to become men or women whose lives are immensely significant, because they bring glory to God and great good to their fellow human beings. We also believe in the power of God to change children so that they become vessels for His use even while they are still children. But we do not believe that their true potential will be realized if children are left to their own moral resources. They are spiritually dead until born of God (Ephesians 2:3, John 3:6). 

d. In their spiritual deadness children are without saving faith and therefore without the moral ability to submit to God or please God (Romans 8:7–8). Whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore conversion to faith in Christ is indispensable for a life of true and lasting significance. 

2. Children are immature. 

a. In addition to sharing the fallen, sinful nature that all humans have, children are also less developed in their physical, intellectual, and emotional capacities than adults are. They are in the process of growing up. 

b. Some of the marks of immaturity in children are brought out in the following passages of Scripture:

i. “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

ii. “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

iii. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11). 

iv. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child” (Hebrews 5:12–13).

c. From these texts we see that children are in the formative stages of learning to think and reason and make moral judgments about what is good and bad, true and false, beautiful and ugly, wise and foolish, etc. They are easily swayed by cunning and deceit. They lack experience in righteousness, and need to grow up into a way of speaking and thinking and reasoning that is mature and not childish. 

d. The point of these texts is not to belittle children, but to warn adults not to be like children in ways that are meant to be left behind in childhood. Children are not to be criticized for their immaturity, but rather, lovingly and patiently nurtured toward mature adulthood. 

3. Children are dependent. 

a. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3–4). This does not mean that children are sinless or that they are mature. It means that they are helpless and needy and utterly dependent on their parents for what they need. Moreover, they have a kind of natural humility in that they do not make pretenses of self-sufficiency. They accept their limitations and lose no sleep over not being able to drive the car or earn a living or run a computer. They are happy to depend on mother and father for what they need. They are models of happy trust in the protection and provision of their parents. 

b. Jesus is not naive about the self-centeredness of children. When He says, “To such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14), the likeness He is commending is not the gullibility, or the self-centeredness, or the immature thought patterns, or the naivety about the world, but rather, the free and natural dependence and trust that should also characterize our reliance on our heavenly Father. We are to be like the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, and babes in their mothers’ arms. They do not fret, but let God serve them to meet their needs. 

4. Children become accountable. 

a. In one sense it is impossible to define what any given child is like, because children are always developing. One day they have one propensity, the next day they may have another. Thus, all our descriptions of children must be understood as on a continuum from total helplessness to strong mature adulthood. 

b. In this regard, it is necessary to say that children gradually become more and more accountable for believing what is true and doing what is right. This is because accountability to know and believe and act assumes a certain level of natural ability. There is a time in the earliest years, for example, that a child would not be held accountable for failure to know and understand God as He is revealed in nature. When the Apostle Paul makes plain in Romans 1:18–25 that we are all without excuse because God has made Himself known through “things that have been made” (v. 20), there is an assumption that those who are without excuse have the significant cognitive ability to relate what they see in nature to God.

c. We are distinguishing natural ability from moral ability. None of us as fallen sinners, dead in our trespasses, was morally able to believe and obey God. We loved sin too much to come to the light (John 3:19–20). We could not because we would not. Our will was so enslaved to sin (Romans 6:20) that it was morally unable to submit to God (Romans 8:7). So even though we were morally unable to do the right, we were held accountable to do it, because accountability assumes natural (or physical) ability, not moral ability. 

d. Natural ability means having the basic physical prerequisites for knowing what is true and right. It includes having a mind that is physically developed enough to perceive the world and process moral thoughts. It also includes having the necessary facts from which truth and right can be inferred. When these two things are present (a relatively mature mind and the necessary facts), then physical ability is present and a person is held accountable for knowing and doing what is right. 

e. This means that there are increasing stages of moral accountability in a child’s life. A one-year-old can be taught not to touch the electric socket and can be held accountable for simple levels of obedience. But a one-year-old is not accountable to understand and believe the Gospel. He does not have the mental capacities or the powers of perception to grasp the meaning of sin and redemption. 

f. Thus, we believe there is an “age of accountability” when a child is morally responsible to put his faith in Jesus and declare war on sin. Jesus said that the “little ones” believed in Him such that they served as an example to the disciples (Matthew 18:3–6). No one but God knows the exact moment when a child reaches such an age. Nor is it crucial to know when a child comes to the age of accountability, if efforts are being made all along the way to present Christ in the fullest, most loving and truthful way so that children may believe as best they can at every level of development. God will determine when a simple acquiescence to parental teaching becomes personal, authentic faith. 

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS TOWARD THEIR CHILDREN

All of the biblical truths about the value and nature of children constitute the foundation upon which we must build our attitudes and actions toward children and children’s ministries. We love our children. We treasure our children as wonderful gifts from our heavenly Father. We see beautiful lessons, for individuals and for the family of God as a whole, embodied in the children of Bethlehem. With all of these truths in mind, we turn now to a dominant biblical theme regarding interaction, under God, between adults and children.

1. Responsibility to Teach and Model God’s Truth

a. The Bible consistently and explicitly lays upon parents the primary responsibility for teaching and modeling God’s truths to children. It is crucial that there be a clear understanding of the primary role parents have in the training of children, so that the biblical responsibility given to parents is not ignored and laid on the church.

b. Parents are constantly charged with the primary responsibility for the training of their children. The great command of the Bible is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5; see also Matthew 22:37). These words “shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). Then Moses tells us, “You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7; see also Deuteronomy 11:18–21).

c. There are at least two implications from these verses. First, Moses teaches adults the Word of God, and the adults are then expected to pass it on to their children. Second, an adult will be an effective teacher only if these words are “on … [his/her] heart.” If these words are on their hearts, adults will be able to teach their children in every situation of life, whether they are sitting, walking, or lying down. This point is utterly crucial. What parents end up teaching children is what they (parents) treasure and love. If they love God with all their hearts, they will seek to instill that love to their children in every situation that arises. Therefore, the most important thing the church can do for children is to trumpet a vision of God and nurture adults in the wisdom of the Scriptures.

d. Many Scriptures show that parents have the primary responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). For example, Ephesians 6:1–4 says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” 

This shows, first of all, that both parents are to be obeyed; and therefore, both parents have authority to teach and guide their children. It is important that parents function as a team and present a united front to their children when the standards of the home are in question. Secondly, the text shows that fathers bear a special responsibility in teaching the children. They are singled out. Mothers are to support and help and may even have some superior gifts in this matter of teaching the children the things of God and training them in righteousness. But the father should still feel the main responsibility to see that this kind of discipline and instruction happens.

e. This structure is confirmed in the book of Proverbs where the responsibility of a father to teach his sons is emphasized again and again with the words “my son” and “sons” (Proverbs 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1, 10; 5:1 ,7; 6:1, 20; 7:1, 24; 8:32). We want to emphasize the depth and the breadth of this parental role. It is a high calling to impart words of life, to be God’s messengers of truth and love to children created by Him and in His image. The responsibility of parenting is powerfully expressed in Moses words: “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life…” (Deuteronomy 32:46–47).

f. It is clear from these verses that parents are to carefully teach children all of the Word of God, and impart the amazing truth that God's Word is our life.

2. Responsibility to Discipline 

The time of youth is favorable for making lifelong commitments to God. Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’ ” 

a. If it is true that children are born with evil inclinations, but are malleable and more easily formed when young, then they not only need teaching, they need corrective, loving discipline. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” Note that children are not naturally good or wise. There is folly in their heart. Foolishness, according to Proverbs, is not just an intellectual deficiency but also a moral one (see also Proverbs 29:15).

b. Parents, therefore, have the responsibility to discipline their children in the Lord. Scripture commands, “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17). Compare here the important verses on how God disciplines us and the discipline of a father in Hebrews 12:5–11. 

c. Such discipline is rooted in love. In fact, those who do not discipline their children ultimately do not love them! 

i. “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24).

ii. “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death” (Proverbs 19:18).

iii. We discipline our children because we love them so much that we want them to escape death. So we now see that the dual parental responsibilities of teaching and disciplining both assist our children to escape death and to find life!

d. This does not mean, however, that we can guarantee a child’s commitment to Jesus by proper teaching and discipline. Children have wills of their own. Parents must teach, but children must grow in their own faith. Proper teaching, discipline, and modeling will encourage them to consider seriously the claims of Christ on their lives, but they must be drawn to God themselves. Jesus reminded us that children would rebel, sometimes seriously (Matthew 10:21).

e. Teaching and disciplining do not exhaust our parental responsibilities. We focus on these two because they are especially highlighted in Ephesians 6:4, “Bring up [your children] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Other passages of Scripture discuss other responsibilities. For example, “encouragement” is a crucial role according to Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” In all our teaching and disciplining we are to constantly give hope and courage to our children that by God’s help they can live joyful, productive lives for His glory.

IMPLICATIONS OF THESE TEACHINGS

These biblical teachings carry certain implications for the parents at Bethlehem and for the congregation. We turn to a brief examination of those implications before we focus on our goals for Bethlehem’s ministry to children and youth.

1. Implications for Parents 

a. The Bible consistently and explicitly lays the primary responsibility for teaching children on their parents. Church programs for children and youth can help, strengthen, confirm, and reinforce what parents are teaching. But they will never be the primary or substantial vehicle for the teaching of children. As parents, this should drive us to our knees. We exert the most significant influence on our children. We as parents should be more worried about our children leaving the faith because of our own sin and weakness than about them leaving because of the church.

b. Given what we have said above about discipline, it follows that children should be taught (disciplined) to pay attention and not to unduly disrupt worship services, Sunday School classes, or any other church function. This will mean that parents also will be teaching their children to respect other authorities in their lives.

c. At Bethlehem, we want children to worship with their parents as soon as they are able to sit through the service. We believe children absorb much from attending worship services with parents who go hard after God week in and week out. Children who are encouraged to participate by singing and listening will sense the importance of the worship hour. Such children will be less disruptive during classes and services, thereby benefiting everyone involved. (For more specific guidance on children in worship see John and Noël Piper’s brochure, “The Family Together in God's Presence.”)

2. Implications for the Church

a. Since it is primarily the parents’ responsibility to teach their children the ways of God, ministries to children and youth are provided to assist parents in that role, not to take it from them. When children are entrusted into the care of the church, we will seek to provide faith-nurturing programs that fit their needs and support home-based training.

b. At the same time, however, we must remember that we are the extended family of Jesus. As such, we must support and encourage each other, especially those who come from unbelieving families. We must endeavor to become for children and their families the extended Family of God where support, encouragement, teaching, and training are a regular part of life.

c. Sunday morning classes for children and youth are the church’s primary vehicle for biblical teaching. Other activities will be encouraged to provide positive learning and ministry experiences which will complement the Sunday morning experience and the teaching received at home.

d. We have examined some fundamental truths about the value and nature of children and the primary responsibility upon parents to train and discipline children. From these, we conclude that Bethlehem will be a powerful influence for the good of children if the church equips parents to savor a vision of God, to have God’s truths in their hearts and on their lips, and to understand that they must pass these life-giving truths on to their children. If the church successfully empowers and assists parents in those responsibilities, then the children in the church will be mightily blessed.

FINAL COMMENTS

Jesus said, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” (Mark 9:37).

Because it is a great privilege and delight to welcome Jesus and to minister to Him, we highly value ministry to children and youth. Under the Lord’s leading we commit Bethlehem to prayer, to planning, and to funding for orderly, effective, Jesus-welcoming ministries to and among children and youth. As Elders, we commit ourselves anew to support parents, to equip them for the responsibilities given them to welcome, value, and love the children and youth of Bethlehem, and to encourage, support, and value those who minister among these little ones. We believe that, with the prayer and service of the adults, our ministries to children and youth will have great effects in the lives of the next generation and in the church as a whole. Children will acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they will grow to savor God in worship, they will be strengthened in their vision of God through careful teaching of the Scriptures, and they will learn how to spread His praise to all nations! Jesus will have been welcomed in our midst, and the angels who are watching our children will look at the Father, and smile.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.—Ephesians 3:20–21

 

A PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY TO PARENTS AND CHILDREN

David & Sally Michael, 1996 (Revised 1998; Edited 2012)

A HEART FOR MINISTERING TO PARENTS AND CHILDREN

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.—Psalm 78:5–8 

This text is one which drives our passion for ministry to parents, children, and youth, and it expresses our desire for the next generation at Bethlehem to surpass us in faith, in knowledge, in righteousness, in fruitfulness, in evangelistic zeal, and in commitment to world evangelization. Like the Psalmist, we hope that the next generation will learn from the mistakes and the rebellion of our generation and firmly set their hope in God. What a blessing that would be for us! As John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

It is our conviction that there is much we can do to nurture the faith of the children and youth who have been entrusted to us. As we see the world’s agenda for our children and youth, we sense a tremendous urgency for Christian parents and for the church to bring forth an even stronger agenda for God in the lives of our offspring. Our vision for children and youth must be greater than the world’s vision. May it never be said of us that we stood by and watched while the world molded our children.

Instead, may God use us to actively influence their hearts, so by grace they might become men and women of faith who know God and His glorious attributes and His infinite glory. May they be faithful followers of Christ who love the Bible, affirm its infallible worth, and grow in their abilities to understand, express, and defend its teachings. May they learn to worship the Lord with their heads and their hearts, and to fill their lives with prayer as they grow in faith and win the lost!

We are concerned about the low standards and expectations for ministry to children and youth in the church today. A popular conviction expressed by many contemporary ministry leaders is that “kids should have fun in church…they should have positive experiences in church so that when they grow older they will continue to enjoy coming to church.” Though we think young people should have fun in church too, this is not the banner that we want to hang over the ministries to children and youth at Bethlehem.

Others will say that they want children to grow up to be faithful churchmen. We would echo the desire that children grow up to be faithful contributors to church life too; but again, this is not the primary vision we want to put before our parents and teachers. Churches are full of good churchmen who attend church faithfully, but who never learn what it means to pick up their crosses and follow Christ. 

We want to equip and mobilize the church for winning and raising young people within Bethlehem’s sphere of influence who:

  • grow in Christ and in spiritual maturity
  • are firmly established in faith and doctrine
  • discover, develop, and fruitfully use their gifts 
  • passionately embrace and pursue a God-centered vision for their lives 
  • meaningfully engage in worship, study, prayer, and ministry 
  • apply a robust and biblical vision for manhood and womanhood 
  • live courageously in the world even under pressure to conform
  • thoughtfully and effectively engage the culture for the sake of the Gospel 
  • are Christ-exalting, God-glorifying, Bible-saturated, truth-driven, doctrinally-grounded, faith-filled, God-centered, mission-minded, soul-winning, justice-pursuing, God-fearing, Christ-treasuring, joyfully self-forgetting, passion-spreading, spiritually-fruitful men and women who are devoted to spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

We believe that this vision for children and youth can be pursued in a way that children and youth will also have fun, make friends, and become good churchmen.

Our aim is to raise the standard of ministry to children and youth as high as we raise it in most other arenas of ministry. We will be as intentional, passionate, and serious about building a vision of God in the younger generations as we are in the older ones. We will pursue that vision for our children and youth, not only with our words, but also with the curriculum we use, the way we recruit and train our teachers, and the way we design our programs for children and youth.

Ministry to parents and children at Bethlehem will be radically God-centered, biblical, and consistent with what we teach adults. Teachers will take their calling seriously and be inspired by a vision of what our children can be. They will labor with joy and with a sense of calling on their lives more than from feelings of obligation and duty.

We will earnestly pray that all the necessary energy, creativity, gifts, and resources of heaven will be lavished upon our congregation for the purpose of building the next generation of faith. We will endeavor to bring the church and home together as partners in nurturing the faith of the next generation.

Our desire is for children and their parents to find a banquet spread for them when they come to Bethlehem and have plenty of carryout for the rest of the week. Like Jesus, our hope is that when our lives are over and we think about our involvement in the lives of children and youth, each of us will be able to say,

I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them… I am praying for them… While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them… I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world… I made known to them your name.—Taken from John 17:8–26

THREE PILLARS

There are three pillars that support Bethlehem’s philosophy of ministry to parents and children, derived from the book of Deuteronomy where Moses gives his final instructions to Israel. Chapters four and six especially provide illustrations of some of the biblical footings beneath these pillars. 

1. God is central in all parenting and teaching.

When teaching the Bible to children we must be careful to avoid teaching it in a way that puts man in the center and pushes God to the margins. Because we want our children to be raised with a God-centered worldview, they must understand the Bible is first and foremost a book about God, not about men such as Abraham, Moses, and Daniel. Rather, God is the main character in all of the Bible. The story of the great flood is not about the flood or about Noah or the animals going in two by two. It is the story of God dealing with a rebellious world. The story of Esther is not a story about a brave queen who pleads with the king for the lives of her people. It is the story of a faithful God who was protecting and preserving His people.

We also want to avoid diverting the focus of the biblical testimony away from God by using various Bible stories to teach morals. We do not want to hinder our children from seeing how God fulfilled His promise to deliver His people from Egyptian slavery by highlighting the importance of children following the example of Miriam who helped her mother by watching over her baby brother Moses as he floated down the river. Similarly, we don’t what to hide the glory of the all-sufficiency of Christ that is revealed in the feeding of the five thousand by emphasizing the importance of sharing like the little boy who shared his lunch with Jesus. 

Our aim is to impress on our children that everything in the universe points to God (Romans 11:36) and reveals His glory. Everything was created by the Word of His power and exists by His sustaining grace (Hebrews 1:3).

Therefore, we will structure our teaching around the following priorities:

a. God and His glory is the goal of our teaching.

i. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:34–36).

ii. “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15).

b. God is the source of power in our teaching.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:6–11).

The centrality of God must be a constant refrain in all our various forms of teaching. Young disciples must be helped to recognize in concrete ways how God relates to absolutely everything in life. We must help them see that God's ultimate purpose in everything is His glory.

2. Children must learn to love and fear the Lord. 

“That you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long” (Deuteronomy 6:2).

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).

The outcome of a child’s faith is not guaranteed by having parents who faithfully labor to nurture faith in their children, nor is it guaranteed by being active in a church that diligently strives to teach and equip parents and children. No child or adult can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. No parents have any hope of their children being saved without the regenerating work of God taking their children’s hearts of stone and turning them into hearts of flesh.

Nevertheless we are commanded to teach our children to fear and love the Lord. The church and the home provide an environment where God often does His saving work in the heart. Our obedience to God and our faithfulness as parents do not ultimately save our children from wrath, but it is very often the means by which God saves our children. Similarly, our disobedience and unfaithfulness as parents does not necessarily condemn our children, but is often the means by which our children are led to destruction. God has ordained that parents bear the responsibility of acquainting their children with the Word of God and the life of faith. Our success in this endeavor matters more to Him than it does to us, and He has made all the resources of heaven available to us. Therefore, we as parents and as a congregation must be faithful to teach our children and youth to fear and delight in the Lord and His statutes and commandments. 

Statutes and commandments can easily be taught so that a child can remember them and repeat them back. We can also train our children to conduct themselves in certain ways and to maintain behavior which portrays godliness. However, teaching them to fear and to love God in the fullest sense of those words is our greatest challenge.

We want our children and youth to not only know the truth but to embrace it with all their hearts lest it be said of them:

  • “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).
  • “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:16).

Our children and youth can know all about God. They can know endless Bible stories, and even have vast portions of Scripture memorized, and yet not honor God or have fellowship with Him. They can live their lives knowing who God is and yet never meet Him until they meet him at the judgment seat and hear Him say, “Depart from me. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).

Therefore, when we teach children we must aim for their hearts as well as their heads. We must encourage them to respond to the truths being taught, to consider its application in their own lives. 

Curricula and practical teaching methods can help parents and teachers aim for the hearts of their children, but these tools will be largely ineffective without work on three very significant fronts.

a. The prerequisite for nurturing faith in children and youth is that parents and teachers must love God and love His Word. It is almost impossible to teach something you have not experienced. Children will not be excited about God unless those who are teaching them are excited about God. God will not be real to them if He is not real to us. If God is not our greatest treasure, and if His Word is not loved and respected, then transferring a love for God and His Word is almost impossible. Therefore, parents and teachers must be diligent in keeping their own love for God alive for the sake of their children.

b. A healthy love and fear of God is more easily cultivated in children that have a healthy love and fear of their parents. It is very difficult for children and youth to learn to honor God if they defy their parents and resist their authority. In striving to nurture a reverence for God and humility before Him, children and youth must not be permitted to treat parents and adults in general with disrespect. As a church we must be very earnest in our efforts to help our people be courageous parents. The permissiveness that is encouraged and taught in our culture, and is also evident in the American church, not only makes life miserable for those who have to be with our children, but it can lead our children to destruction. “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death” (Proverbs 19:18).

c. We can model, teach and discipline in a way which encourages the heart to respond, but only the Holy Spirit can effectually change the heart of a child or young person. Therefore, priority must be given to intercession in any ministry to children and their parents.

The true saving work in the heart of a child is reflected in the exchange of affections “count[ing] all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8) When Jesus is seen as the greatest treasure (Matthew 6:20) all else is “count[ed] as rubbish” (Philippians 3:8). 

3. Parents are responsible for discipling their children. 

“That you may fear the LORD your God…you shall teach [God’s Word] diligently to your children…then you shall say to your son” (Deuteronomy 6:2, 7, 21).

Biblically it is very difficult to minimize the importance of the family in redemption. Like everything else, God created families for His glory and to make His glory known to the ends of the earth. God did not reveal Himself to every generation in the same way He revealed Himself to Moses. He intended for the truth about His character, His deeds, and His will to be communicated by parents to their children. This text clearly places the responsibility upon parents to make sure their children know and fear the Lord. The biblical expectation is that parents will acquaint their children and youth with the Word of God and the life of faith, and equip them for service in the kingdom. Therefore, more than anyone else in the world, parents must be committed to the instruction and the spiritual well-being of their children.

This has several implications for how the church ought to be engaged in ministry to children and youth.

Bethlehem should not usurp God-ordained, parental responsibility; but rather, the church should equip, support, and encourage parents in their vital role.

Two chapters earlier in Deuteronomy 4:10, Moses reminds the people of what the Lord said:

“Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.”

For parents to be able to teach their children to “fear the Lord,” parents themselves must first fear the Lord. If parents would teach their children the truths of God, they first must be taught themselves. Therefore, a major responsibility of the church is to “assemble the people” and teach them to “fear the Lord” (to know the Lord, delight in Him, and obey His teaching).

Bethlehem is a community of believers who have made a covenant to “educate our children in the Christian faith.” Therefore, the church must be engaged in helping each member of this large family live up to this calling and responsibility.

Most parents expecting a child will attend several weeks of classes before the birth so that they will be well equipped when the “blessed moment” arrives. Following the birth, there are volumes of resources that could be consumed to help parents know how to care for their child and what to anticipate at each stage of development. Our society has much to offer parents in raising physically healthy children, but it is the role of the church to provide resources and support that will help parents raise spiritually healthy children.

As part of a church, parents are tapped into a collective body of wisdom and a network of support and encouragement that can aid them in their parenting responsibility. This is especially important given the reality of single-parent homes, unequally yoked marriages, and spiritually dysfunctional families. The church is in a unique position to help stand in the gap for children and parents who find themselves in less-than-ideal situations.

The spread of the Gospel and the future of the church is at stake. In his final instructions to Israel, Moses warns the people again and again to listen carefully and teach children diligently because their future in the land was at stake. If they forgot the things he was teaching them and acted corruptly, Moses warns: “You will soon utterly perish from the land… you will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations…” (Deuteronomy 4:26–27).

Often, we can be very short-sighted when we approach Christian Education. Are we keeping the children and youth occupied while the adults have their meeting, or are we investing in the next generation of church leaders, husbands/wives, and fathers/mothers? Are we merely teaching children to obey their parents and to behave properly, or are we strategically and consistently teaching them in a way that communicates the calling on their lives to teach their children who will teach their children to fear the Lord and to walk in His ways? Are we merely providing our young disciples a fun experience at church to help them form meaningful relationships with their peers, or are we diligently establishing traditions in the church and within our families that will endure for generations and establish the church of tomorrow firm in their faith? A strategy for ministry to children and their parents must be very explicit and pro-active in pursuing a vision for future generations, lest we be left “few in number among the nations.”

A FRAMEWORK FOR TEACHING CHILDREN AND YOUTH

With these three pillars established, Deuteronomy 6 goes on to imply at least three ways to impart a fear of God and a love for Him and for His Word.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.—Deuteronomy 6:4–9

1. Formal Teaching 

“You shall teach them diligently” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

In Romans 10:17 Paul affirms this principle by telling us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The knowledge of God is so wonderful that it produces faith. In fact, it is impossible to embrace in faith what is not first taught to us. We cannot believe what we do not know, because knowledge precedes faith.

Children and youth need purposeful, intentional, formal instruction in the Word of God. If we use a “hit or miss” approach to teaching the Word of God, there will be gaps in their knowledge. This will limit their faith in God, or there will be a misunderstanding of God because of an incomplete picture of who He is. This mandates us to strive for an accurate, God-centered, complete, formal curriculum that acquaints young disciples with the whole counsel of God. In essence, young people need a theology. They need doctrine. They need to know the Word of God intimately. They cannot be kept from error or superficial faith if they do not know the Word.

Rather than repeating familiar stories while ignoring vast portions of Scripture, we need to formulate a curriculum that encompasses the full counsel of God. Given that most children remain in their home of origin until high school graduation, parents have the privilege and the responsibility to impart the Word of God on a daily or almost daily basis for eighteen years. Given the shortness of this window of opportunity, we need to maximize our efforts by careful, strategic planning. If we can implement formal, incremental training in the Bible through a God-centered curriculum, we can more assuredly expose our children and youth to the full counsel of God.

We also need to employ a curriculum that is true to the intent of Scripture. Much of the curriculum written for children is moralistic in nature and teaches the Bible with the aim of producing good behavior in children. Teaching that is true to Scripture presents the Bible as one continuous, interconnected story of the revelation of the character of God and His plan of redemption of man. Acquainting children with God is the goal of Bible teaching. Good morals follow when young people love and honor God and His character and want to please Him and to be like Him. 

As we stated above, teaching that does not aim for response from the child or youth is not effective teaching. Knowledge remains information stored in the brain unless there is opportunity for response to the Word of God. Although a parent or teacher cannot make a young person respond to the Word, good instruction will lead a child or youth to understand the relationship between Scripture and his/her life. A young person must be able to understand the implications of a biblical truth and what response is required of him or her. The parent or teacher relies on the Holy Spirit to give the young person concrete opportunities to apply the learned truth and then empower the young person to respond faithfully. When the young person responds to the Word of God, there is the conviction and confirmation in his or her heart that God is real, He can be trusted, and His Word is true.

We do our children and youth a disservice if, alongside our formal instruction, we do not also urge our young people to memorize Scripture. Children can memorize easily, and often what is learned in childhood is retained for a lifetime. The Word memorized is an ever-present counselor for our children and youth, providing them with truth in any situation. It is also a weapon, “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), to combat the attacks of the enemy and the foolishness of the “wisdom” of this age. When the memorized Word is seen as integrated with a young person’s experience, response to that indwelling Word is more likely, and the young person is impressed with the truth of Scripture.

If memorization is not intentional, the opportunity to be informed by the Word in life situations is less likely. A formal memory program, starting by age two, will give our young people a large body of memorized Scripture by the time they leave home and perhaps cultivate a lifetime habit of Scripture memorization.

Childhood years are the training years in which we must intentionally train our children and youth to meditate on the Word by building a habit of daily devotions and participation in worship services, including diligent, critical listening to the preaching of the Word. We need to teach them to discern truth from error and to use the Bible as the measuring standard for everything else in life.

2. Informal Teaching 

“Talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). 

Jesus continually used everyday occurrences as opportunities to impart truth.

  • A woman drawing water from a well became a lesson about living water and eternal life.
  • Lilies of the field became a lesson about faith in the constant provision of God.
  • Camels became object lessons on the danger of riches and the challenge to put God above all else.

Jesus seized ordinary events and turned them into teachable moments to bear fruit for the kingdom. This is our task also. Parents and teachers who love God and His Word will naturally speak of the Word in connection with ordinary circumstances. The key ingredients are a love of the Word and a “teachable moment.”

The reason Jesus could teach so frequently was that He spent time with people. He included His disciples in His ministry. He walked from town to town in the company of other people. The teachable moment cannot be seized if you are not present with your disciples when the moment occurs. If we are to teach our “disciples” (our children), we must spend time with them. The quality of our time with children is important, but the quantity of time is essential as well. We dare not sacrifice quantity, presuming that “quality” will make up for our negligence. Families must have seasons of un-frenzied time to work and play together.

Families must also be together in church and not constantly separated into age groupings. Young people must be woven into the fabric of church life. They must be included in our activities; not always, but often. Children should be present with their parents in the worship service. They must be allowed to minister alongside their parents and other adults. They must be encouraged to discover their gifts and then be treated as members of a team (see 1 Corinthians 12:12–26). Children and youth can minister in ways that adults cannot. Including them in church life will not only cause the church to benefit from the uniqueness of children and youth, but will also give opportunities for teachable moments.

3. Modeling 

“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:8–9).

Who we are speaks louder to our children and youth than our words. God taught Israel through His appointed messengers throughout the Old Testament, but He backed up His words with His character of faithfulness to His chosen people, with forgiveness, with punishment to call them to repentance, and with His mighty works. He modeled the truth of His Word.

The greatest model God gave us of His character was the incarnation of His Son—“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Jesus modeled the Father’s compassion by healing the sick. He modeled humility by washing the disciples’ feet (see John 13:14–15). He modeled perseverance and intensity in prayer in Gethsemane.

We all benefit from the example of someone more mature in the faith than ourselves. Children and youth should be given the opportunity to learn from more mature believers. This opportunity must first be available in the home. Our ministry to parents and children must aim to encourage and admonish parents to spend time with their children and enhance family life, where the greatest opportunity for role modeling takes place. 

Also, curriculum should be designed to expose our children and youth to the great biblical, historical, and contemporary role models of the faith. Intergenerational activities should be designed to provide opportunities for young people to learn from the experiences and maturity of those who have walked longer with God and have learned to trust God through the ups and downs of life. We must strive to involve authentic (not perfect) leaders with our children and youth; leaders who have a mature understanding of the Word, a humble understanding of their sinfulness, and a mature faith in God. If children and youth are always in an environment with other children and youth and are mainly led by those just slightly older than themselves, they will miss out on the richness that adult interaction can provide for them. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

Therefore, it is important that children and youth be exposed to spiritually mature adults. It is also important that as children mature they be involved in nurturing the faith of those who are younger than they. Before graduating, young people should embrace the vision of passing on faith to their own generation and to the generations to come. Ministry to children and parents must aim to prepare our children to assume that role.

Jesus’ command to us is clear in His words to Simon Peter: 

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”—John 21:15–17

If we love Jesus, we will feed His lambs.

IMPLICATIONS FOR BETHLEHEM'S MINISTRY TO PARENTS AND CHILDREN

 

1. Ministry to parents and children will be upheld and shaped by prayer. Parents, teachers, elders, and small group leaders will be encouraged to pray earnestly for the children and youth under their care. 

2. Ministry to parents and children will recognize that nurturing the faith of our children is not a higher calling than following Jesus. We will encourage parents to seek first the kingdom of God, while trusting Him for the outcome of their children’s faith. We will be sensitive to the danger of becoming so fixated on the welfare of our own children that we ignore the Great Commission. Nevertheless, we maintain that faithful parenting and the Great Commission are rarely competing and are often complementary passions. Therefore, we encourage parents to find balance between these responsibilities and callings upon our lives.

3. Ministry to parents and children will be an equipping ministry. Since Scripture’s greatest mandate for nurturing the faith of children is given to parents, it seems most strategic to encourage parents to take their responsibility seriously and to train them to be effective in their instruction of their children. The first and foremost avenue to nurturing faith in children and youth will be within the context of the family. Therefore, significant attention will be given to strengthen families. Parents will be encouraged to place the spiritual nurture of their children as a high priority. Over-committed, over-involved, over-stressed families will be encouraged to establish priorities, set boundaries, and leave enough margin in their lives to adequately carry out their family responsibilities. Parental input and involvement in ministry to children and youth at Bethlehem will be encouraged as an opportunity to be better equipped as parents and to advance the vision for the next generation.

4. Ministry to parents and children will make an effort to inspire fathers to set God-centered goals for their children and to lead their families. While we stress the importance of mother and father working as a team in nurturing the faith of their children, we will emphasize the father’s unique responsibility before God to nurture the faith of his children and provide spiritual leadership in the home.

5. We will trust God to raise up and empower gifted teachers for ministry to children. We do not assume that every person who is willing to teach is necessarily ready to teach. Therefore, we will offer opportunities for aspiring teachers to develop their gifts. We will give serious attention to training them to be effective in their handling of the Word and in their understanding of how to teach children and youth. They will be encouraged to teach for response, touching the heart as well as the head.

6. We will also trust God to raise up storytellers, teachers, worship leaders, small group leaders/mentors, and other people with essential gifts for all other facets of ministry to children and youth. We will strive to equip all children’s and youth workers with a solid understanding of the age group needs, curriculum, goals, and classroom discipline. All workers will be carefully screened before they are entrusted with our young people, and they will be encouraged to “keep [their] hearts with all vigilance” (Proverbs 4:23), to diligently nurture their own faith so that they will be godly examples to our children and youth, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), and to “be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

7. With a view toward inspiring new leadership in ministry to parents and children, we will trust the Lord to raise up some people who have a call on their lives to teach and train children and youth vocationally or more extensively as lay persons. Our desire is to inspire potential leaders to see this as a high calling and therefore challenge them to a commitment of serious Bible study and earnest, diligent, prayerful striving for better ways to communicate God’s truth to children and youth in a faith-producing manner.

8. High standards will be pursued for parental involvement in the spiritual education of children. Prior to the dedication of their children, parents are expected to participate in the first Foundation Builders seminar led by pastoral staff and other experienced parents. This session is designed to prepare parents for dedicating their children, introduce them to the philosophy and theology of ministry to parents and children at Bethlehem, and offer practical suggestions of how to teach their children during the first few years of life and how to train them in righteousness and discipline. In addition, the church aims to come alongside parents to strengthen their understanding, resolve, and effectiveness in nurturing their children through classes, seminars, conferences, counseling, and other means.

9. Careful and primary attention will be given to selecting and creating curriculum that is God-centered, age-appropriate, and faith-building. Serious attention will be given to creating a plan of formal Bible training to acquaint children and youth with the full counsel of God both at home and in Sunday School in order to take full advantage of the 18 strategic years at our disposal.

10. By God’s grace, church-wide emphasis on Bible memory for adults and children will be sustained. 

11. Parents and teachers will be encouraged and helped to introduce children and youth to Jesus, recognizing that without regeneration, young people are unable to please God or walk in righteousness. 

12. While recognizing the need for regeneration, care will be given to instructing children in righteousness.

13. We will impart to the children and youth an understanding of respect for authority, courtesy, modesty, wholesome speech, self-control, kindness, etc. We will enforce the “Behavioral Principles and Expectations of Children, Youth, and Young Adults at Bethlehem” and set a tone for respect and self-control at church functions that we hope will be reinforced at home. Parents and teachers will be given tools for effective training in righteousness and correction of inappropriate behavior. Our prayer is that they will “set…an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

14. We will endeavor to give children and youth wholesome activities and models of godliness who will faithfully call them away from conforming to this world. We will remind the children and youth that we are “aliens” and “exiles” here and give them tools to stand against the rising tide of secularism, worldliness, and apathy. We will encourage them to live as followers of Jesus. We will endeavor to place the “best” before children and youth and strive for excellence in our efforts to encourage them toward righteousness.

15. Serious effort will be given to weaving children and youth into the life of the church. We want to esteem children and youth as integral members of the body. We recognize that because of their immaturity of faith, we need to be careful how we encourage the involvement of children and youth in church life. We will aim to recognize gifts in them that can be released in appropriate ways for the good of the body and for the enhancement of their faith. Parents and teachers will be encouraged to help children and youth discover their gifts and to seek places where those gifts can be appropriately employed inside and outside the body. In addition, young people will be encouraged to see their role in the scope of local and world mission, discovering how they can be engaged in “spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.”

16. Ministry to parents and children will endeavor to engage children and youth in faith-stretching experiences. We know that the “testing of [their] faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3) and that for God to become real to children and youth, they must see Him respond in faithfulness. Encouraging children and parents to take risks for God will not only strengthen their faith, but also combat the lie that we are to seek comfort above spiritual growth.

17. Ministry to parents and children will encourage the people in the body to minister to each other through relationships of love. Intergenerational gatherings will be encouraged for the benefit of all ages. Families will be encouraged to include singles, the elderly, and others into their activities.

18. Ministry to parents and children will not ignore the needs of the children and parents outside the walls of our church and especially those outside the faith. There are many children in our schools and neighborhoods and even in our church who do not have the benefit of Christian parents. We aim to mobilize households to evangelize these children and bring them to our church through relationships with our young people and households. We want to make healthy Christian households a natural place for discipling children from unbelieving homes. These households are a key outreach asset of our church in making disciples in these Twin Cities.

19. Our aim will be to sincerely welcome children and youth with special needs (and their families) into our community. We will endeavor to teach children and youth with special needs with our words and with our actions that they, like all people, are created by God, in the image of God, for the glory of God. We will creatively work to equip them spiritually and provide appropriate opportunities for them to express their gifts in service to the community alongside their peers and their parents for their joy and the building-up of the church.

20. Ministry to parents and children will give careful attention to being earnest and faithful in all our endeavors and God-centered in our instruction. 

As a ministry team, we will aim to honor the Lord in our deportment and try to be an example to the congregation of complementary and biblically-appropriate ministry roles. We will aim to be good examples of faith-nurturing parents who are firm but loving in discipline and careful instructors in righteousness. We will endeavor to pray regularly for Bethlehem families and invest our gifts in “spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.”

THE PROCESS OF EDUCATING CHILDREN AND YOUTH

From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus…that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.—2 Timothy 3:15–17

1. Impart the Truth “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Acquaint children and youth with the whole Bible. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Present the Bible as a revelation of the character and work (purposes) of God. “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isaiah 46:9–11).

Encourage children and youth to develop a biblical mindset and a Christian worldview. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

2. Encourage Faith “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Encourage children and youth to trust in the character and promises of God. “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

Lead children and youth to recognize their sinful state and to respond in repentance and faith in God. “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).

Cultivate a love for the Word and a habit of interacting and responding in faith and obedience to the Word. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16). “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).   “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

3. Lead Children and Youth to Actively Participate in the Purposes of God “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus…that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good word” (2 Timothy 3:15, 17).

Help children and youth to see the hand of God at work in this world. “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:20–21).

Encourage children and youth to recognize and use their spiritual gifts for the good of the body and the world. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). 

 

© 2017 Bethlehem Baptist Church