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A Heart After God

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How do we nurture faith in the hearts of children? In Hebrews
11:6 we read, “And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and
that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Children understand the concepts of being dependent. They depend
on parents and teachers to help them master new skills. Maybe this
is part of what it means to have childlike faith — to rely on the
guidance of someone wiser and to believe that trust will be worth
it. God trains us to be faithful as he is faithful. This is not
simple behavior modification, but the radical transformation of a
heart after God.

“To be faithful is to be present and patient wherever we find
ourselves,” writes Westerhoff, “that is, to neither run nor fight.
To be faithful is to open ourselves spiritually to God and to
discern what God is trying to do so that we might cooperate.”

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Do children see this kind of authentic faith in your church
community? Beckwith, in her book Postmodern Children’s Ministry,
writes, “Communities are places where all of life is shared on some
level: the good, the bad, the messy, the shameful, the startling,
and the fantastic. It should be the one place where those who are
wounded…can come for balm and healing.”

Families attending a large Bible church in Texas experienced a
very unusual worship service in September 2004. At the beginning of
the pastor’s sermon, he invited a couple to join him on the
platform. As they came forward, he explained that the wife had
formerly been the Minister of Music of this church. She had
resigned two years ago after admitting that she was involved in an
affair.

For the next half hour, she and her husband described their
journey from pain to wholeness. They told how their pastor and
Christian friends led them to forgive, repent, and be reconciled to
one another and their family. This couple’s children came forward
and told everyone how proud they were of their parents. The church
board affirmed their faith in this couple by reinstating the woman
as Minister of Music. To end the service, she sang “Amazing Grace”
before a tearful congregation.

My grandchildren attended that worship service. They’d moved to
Texas three years earlier with my son, who’s a single parent. I
can’t tell you how many times we’ve prayed and cried with them,
trying to make God real to children whose mother says there is no
God. I was grateful that Sunday morning for a dramatic display of
faith and the clear message that God is at work in the hearts of
people. When I asked our grandchildren what they felt during the
service, one replied, “I felt like we’re not alone.”

While your church may not agree with such a public forum,
consider Westerhoff’s words: “The church exists for no other reason
than to help make and keep human life genuinely human…The church
cannot afford to be an institution among institutions.”

What are some ways your church is sharing the “real heart” of
the gospel with children?

Courage to Live God’s Story

The “yellow brick road” of this generation leads through a
postmodern forest, where dangers grab for kids’ very lives. The
loving God they sing about in Sunday school seems powerless when
they hear of global violence…especially against children. Keeping
children busy with good things is okay, but helping them see God in
the hard places will give them courage to live out their faith
story.

I’ve read James Dobson’s bestseller, When God Doesn’t Make
Sense
, several times. It’s filled with stories of people who
trusted God when there was no good reason to believe. Many were
angry with God, yet they decided to trust him with their very
souls. Dobson drew two conclusions. First, we can have crises with
God or without God — either way, crises will come to the human
condition. Secondly, God doesn’t have to explain himself to us –
because he is God.

Like the adults in Dobson’s book, countless children have loved
and served God in spite of cancer, divorce, the death of a parent,
disabilities, parents with mental problems, poverty, and abuse. Why
did these brave kids choose to trust in a God they couldn’t see?
Because they didn’t just know about God…they had met God
personally. Where? In communities of faith and in worship. Kathleen
Chapman, in her book Teaching Kids Authentic Worship, calls worship
the glue that makes kids stick to God.

“Practicing authentic biblical worship as God intended produces
supernatural adhesive,” Chapman writes. “Simply put, [this] relationship with God generates glue so strong nothing on earth
will break its hold. If children are worshiping God the way God
intended and Scripture instructs, they don’t walk away from
him.”

God’s yellow brick road leads children to a heavenly home beyond
their wildest imaginations, where gates of pearl and streets of
gold await them. It’s not over the rainbow, but it’s through faith
in the cross of Christ where dreams do come true. cm

Pat Verbal is an author and founder of Ministry to Today’s
Child, a consulting and training ministry (www.ministrytotodayschild.com).


Road Signs to the Land of Things Unseen

  • STOP — Say what you’ve been told about
    God.
  • YIELD — Put what others told you about God
    into your words.
  • GO — Use something you know about God in your
    life.
  • CAUTION — Understand someone else’s ideas
    about God and compare them to what God’s Word says.
  • CROSSROAD — Put several facts or ideas about
    God together and use them to answer a question or solve a
    problem.
  • SAFE CROSSING — Decide if this truth or
    action has value to you and why.

The Prayer of Examen

“Yahweh, you examine me and know me” Psalm 139:1.

Examen is the daily examination of our glimpses of God and our
failures to notice God. Traditionally, examen is done at the end of
the day. Two questions make up this reflection.

The first question focuses on the positive parts of the day when
you were most aware of God’s presence or for which you want to
thank God.

The second question focuses on the parts of the day when you
felt most separated from God or those actions for which you wish to
ask God’s forgiveness.

Examen concludes with prayers of confession, thankfulness, and
intercession.


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