Posts Tagged With: Christian Education

Helping Our Children Grow in Faith – a review

keeleyOver the years I have become reticent about recommending books as I have discovered that books often resonate with a person because of the time and place they are in individually. However, I will overcome my reluctance and challenge Christian parents, teachers and Children’s ministry workers to read “Helping Our Children Grow in Faith” by Robert J. Keeley (Baker Books 2008).

Essentially Keeley unpacks 6 principles that he believes (and I concur) are important in nurturing faith in children.

  • Children need to be nurtured in their faith by the whole community of faith, not just parents.
  • Children need to be part of the whole life of the church.
  • Children need to know that God is mysterious.
  • Bible stories are the key to helping children know a God who is mysterious and who knows them for who they are.
  • Faith and moral development are both important but they are not the same thing.
  • Children should be part of congregational worship and they should have opportunities to experience developmentally appropriate worship.

Not only are these 6 points beautifully unwrapped but a lot of the incidental teaching along the way is very valuable too. For example, when discussing the power of story, he touches on the danger of simply attaching morals to Bible stories. He suggests that if we simply connect a story to a moral (“Dare to be a Daniel or David” – my examples) we prevent children pondering what God may be teaching them.

He also reflects on a passion of mine: children in worship. He says, “For children to have the kind of faith we want them to have, they need to be part of the worship experience.” Here I would like to have seen, at least, a mention of the impact that children have on the faith of adults as they can inspire us with their naïve simplicity.

Overall, an excellent book that is worth reading, re-reading and discussing with family, colleagues and congregation so that we can all assist in the nurturing of that all import faith in the most vulnerable in our families, schools and churches.

Categories: Book Review, Child Theology, Children, christian, christian education, Christianity, Church | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Children as Spiritual Champions – Part 1

The first book I am re-reading as I immerse myself in the topic of “children and church” is George Barna’s very personal confession and realisation, “Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions” (Regal 2003). In this book he acknowledges his own blindness, and suggests that this is modelled by the church at large – especially its leadership, with regard to the importance of children in the church.

In true Barna-esque style he weighs and measures the problem. He looks at the trends and suggests they are alarming (41). He measures the knowledge and values that children have and comes to the conclusion that American children are not being nurtured in the faith. He says this is even more alarming when you understand that most people come to their Christian faith in their childhood.

In a very moving chapter entitled “Why kids matter” he points out that, first of all, they matter to God. They are his gifts to us. Even more importantly, because they matter, He has given clear instruction to parents and the community at large as to the importance of nurture. I would add that we see this most intimately in Jesus’ relationship with children.

Barna also states that children are the battlefront of the spiritual warfare. The battle for the hearts and minds of children is where spiritual warfare is the hottest! He suggests that the more we invest in training, teaching, modelling, encouraging and etc. at this time the less we will have to pick up the pieces in the future.

Part 2 – soon. I hope!

Categories: Children, christian, christian education, Christianity, Church, community, Ethics, Faith, Family, Reflections | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unbiased Education

st enodocThere is a feeling in the general community that secular state education is neutral and Christian education is partisan. However the real question is, can any educational system deliver education that is not shaped by the values and particular world-view of both the system and the teacher? To be frank, I believe the manner in which we teach any subject is saturated in a world-view.

For example, history is more than just a collection of objective facts but also about how we interpret them. We can ask, is history simply events determined by the decisions of humanity – are we in charge of our own destiny, or are greater forces at work? Is science the exploration of the chance events occurring over millions of years or is there a higher being at work? Any study of literature is the study of values, worldviews, hopes, aspirations and failures of humanity. A neutral objectivity is naive and foolish.

Why do I raise this question? There is an arrogant totalitarianism developing in democratic countries that suggests that the only truly valuable education can be pursued by the state – everything else is partisan. The reality behind this thinking is that mankind is “god”. We determine what is valuable and true. The majority rules. Somehow truth is determined by the greatest number.

Essentially the fundamental difference between Christian education and state education is the God/god that we follow. The God I follow has revealed himself in His Word and in His son. It is a truth that has withstood the test of time. The god of secular state education is determined by the values, votes and fashions of any particular era.

I know where my loyalty and faith lies.

Categories: christian, christian education, Christianity, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Equipping The Troops – a Christian Apologetic Approach

If the Laissez faire is foolish and the Fortress method only temporary, how do we prepare our children for a life of Christian faith that can withstand the arguments and abuse that will certainly come.

Let me begin by saying, if one believes that Scripture is the Word of God and that the Holy Spirit is real and that God’s promises are true then there is no reason to be fearful. Too often however, I have seen parenting that is driven by fear – fear of the world and its myriad dangers.

From an early age, starting with Children’s Bibles, teach the truth as the Bible presents it.skate board ramp (The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Kenneth Taylor is a classic in this area). Do this daily, whether at the meal table or bedtime. And pray regularly. As the children grow, so must the sophistication of the stories and the discussion. Bible knowledge is the bedrock from which we defend our faith. Memorising stories and verses become essential tools for the future.

Knowing the overarching story of Scripture with the centrality of the promised Christ in the Old Testament and his arrival in the New will protect them from seeing Scripture as a mere set of moral rules. As our children grow older they discover that the Bible is presenting an image of a Kingdom that has come in Christ and will be completely revealed with his return. They need a picture of eternity and the relationship of our earthly pilgrimage to it.

P1030744I could say so much more about this but I think you get the drift. Our children need to be seeped in knowledge AND in understanding. They need to understand the uniqueness of the faith. Critically, they also need to know that God has created them for a purpose in His kingdom, both now and forever.

So where do other faiths come in? Don’t major on minors. What are the predominant counter Christian worldviews today? What do people believe? What motivates the lives of people? What dominant values does the media portray? How is Christianity distinctive from these views?

To understand these motivations is to know where Christianity differs. What are the logical outcomes of these “faiths”? E.g. If we are simply the product of evolution how does that affect our value as humans? How does this contrast with being a child of God? And what about faiths that demand we earn our salvation? What does that reveal about their view of sin and how does that match up with the Christian concept of Grace?

100_9647Finally, as parents we need to model a genuine Christian life where our words and actions, choices and views are shaped by our faith. Our children need to see us talking with God and studying His word. Our children need to see that our lives are not lived out of custom and superstition but out of a living relationship.

Is this a guarantee. No. Ultimately our children will need to make choices of their own. But if you hearken back to Prov 22:6,(see: A Scary Verse)  the principle is that if we set the foundations of faith the likelihood of straying will be greatly reduced.

Categories: Child Theology, christian, christian education, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Family, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Let them Choose

Yesterday I wrote about the confusing “world of faiths” that has developed in Western countries over the last few generations. It is this faith supermarket that our children enter. I didn’t even mention celebrities and Scientology, or the crazy “God will make you rich” fringe of the Christian church – attempts to justify consumption and not feel bad about it. Also I didn’t mention the impact of the marginalisation of the Bible in many churches and the resulting liberalism and watering down of the gospel.

So how do we guide our children? One stream of parents I come across say that we shouldn’t guide our children. “Let them make up their own minds in their own good time. If Christianity is the best faith or the most suitable faith for them they will find it in time. We have an open family where all things are discussed and in time they will chose for themselves. After all, what we believe may not be the best thing for them.” A very open approach.

There are two things I want to say about this:

1. It is not an approach we would use in other areas of life. “Children will discover for themselves the need to brush their teeth, and wash their hands after having been to the toilet. If they wish to follow our example they can, if they don’t, that is their own choice.” We would call that neglect. The result would be rotten teeth and hepatitis Anyone who said this would be considered dim. “When the child decides that school is for them, then they will go to school or be educated.” We can imagine a host of other situations like this. Why then do we do this with faith? I believe the answer is simple. We have consigned it to the less important areas of life. Faith is personal, individual and not part of the mainstream of life. It is not worth the parental investment required. We will encourage sport and music, but not faith.

2. My second point is that this approach is the antithesis of what Scripture commands.

Breakfast Under the Big Birch Tree - Carl Larsson

Breakfast Under the Big Birch Tree – Carl Larsson

Teach your children at every opportunity (Deut 6), train your child (Prov.22:6), do not hinder them from entering the Kingdom (Matt 18). God’s approach, the Bible’s approach is that children are precious and so need to be nurtured in eternal truths – the character of God, the nature of salvation and their place in His Kingdom, from an early age. This takes intention and time, effort and passion, faith and family. Scripture suggests that nurturing children is one of the most important, if not the most important, calling a parent has. There is no place for a laissez faire attitude.

We guard them from live power points, suspicious people and moving cars, so why don’t we protect their eternal souls from the clutches of the evil one?

Next I want to look at the opposite approach: Blinkering the child from other faiths.

Categories: Child Theology, christian, christian education, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Family, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Which Direction?


When I was young, faith choices were fairly limited. The main choice was between Catholic and Protestant and among the Protestants it was a sub choice from a variety of groups – Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian and so on. Then a few cults arrived: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. In the 1960s Charismatic churches started making their presence felt. Up to this point the general focus of faith was still around the Christian tradition even if a few seemed flaky.

Anyway, the choices were largely determined by family tradition. For me, Catholics and Anglicans were out as our family had always been Reformed. The big question in a small country town was where would the girl come from whom I was going to marry? I know it gave my mother sleepless nights! I could come home with a Baptist or even worse, a Catholic!

In the late 60s and into the 70s other, non Christian, groups started showing their faces. Hare Krishnas were the most talked about as they drummed their orange lives into our consciousness. Buddhism, the Baha’i faith, Islam were just some of the other new comers. The occult was always there but it was only whispered about.

All in all it meant that in a few short decades our religious culture had become far more pluralistic. Alongside this came the Postmodern idea that truth is relative and personal. From a relatively homogeneous religious culture we arrived at a smorgasbord. Every person’s taste is now catered for.

How in this culture do Christian parents train their children? If one believes in the truth of Scripture and the reality of Christ and His Kingdom (very absolute beliefs in a Postmodern era), how do we encourage our children to follow, what we believe is truth?

In coming days I hope to explore some approaches that parents take, and consider their effectiveness.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Church, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Memories of Church No.3 – Methodists and Mayhem

This is part 3 of my early recollections of church.

In the mid 1960’s the church to which I now belonged rented a Methodist church that only had a few members left. After a couple of years we purchased the building and added to our congregation a small number of aged Methodists who refused to leave the building they had been part of for their whole lives. One of the “fixtures” was Mr. Robinson who, in his earlier life, had shown 16mm films in the local schools. He was also an expert on first aid and was always willing to give our youth group demonstrations. As we had Dutch parents and grandparents, Mr Robinson was our connection with the new culture in which we lived.

This was also the time that I was starting to think about the future. God put in a number of factors: there was a teacher who urged me to apply for University, which, as I have explained in earlier blogs was light-years away from my parents’ experience, and there was Rev. Deenick who urged me to explore the concept of Christian education. Rev. D. didn’t hit me with all of that at once but over time we had discussions, and he urged me to read certain books and attend particular conferences and so when the time came, in the then, distant future, I was helplessly drawn into a group of people whose aim it was to set up a Christian school, and ended up being a Christian school teacher.P


At the time it seemed all so “accidental” but looking back Rev. Deenick and God were in close collaboration.

But I am racing ahead of myself. When I look back, being a Christian was a serous matter. It was not about having fun – and I am ok with that. Awe, obedience and doing things the right way were explicitly and implicitly drummed into us.

Then in the second half of the 1960s an upheaval occurred. One of the professors from the theological college (the “house” I mentioned previously) started teaching the doctrine of a second blessing with the baptism of the Holy Spirit*. To be blunt, theological war broke out and my parents were in the middle of it. As a teenager I pretended nothing was happening, after all, even though church was important there were also music, girls, cars and a bit of study to consider.

Little did I know then that this was part of the Pentecostal/Charismatic tsunami that was to hit Australian churches, and whether I liked it or not, I would have to reflect deeply on the Bible and what I believed.

* Both these men, Rev Deenick and Professor Schep, in opposing theological camps, are mentioned under my blog heading: Melchisedeks.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Church, Faith, Family, History, my dad, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments


Ocean Grover Primary School circa 1957

Ocean Grove Primary School circa 1957

Some minds twitch with eager attention –

ready to absorb, engage and respond.

Others meander between sleep and apathy.

A few sparkle with their own thoughts and musings –

but not with my instructions.

The sound of a football or distant song, piques their interest,

however the poem or play, theme or plot hardly registers.

How to excite the neurons,

that is the question.

To electrify ideas, thought and wonder

beyond the mundane and internet fed drivel,

is the challenge …

as the wandering mind sits behind the desk,

waiting for recess.

Categories: Education, Poem, poetry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Narrating the World to Your Child

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deut 6:6&7

This morning I was listening to a radio program about teaching young children to read. Two experts in the area were reflecting on the important factors that encourage literacy. In amongst the usual ideas (read to your children, have books lying around the house, find good apps etc.) one idea resonated in particular. That is: Parents with young children should narrate the world to them. “Mummy is going into the kitchen to get the red bowl.” “Daddy is putting on a woolly jumper.” The idea is that you introduce the child to both words and conversation at an early age while going about your daily duties. Many parents do that quite naturally. Objects and names are connected and actions identified. There were also another host of positives.

100_9680 cropBut do we narrate the the world to our children at a spiritual level? Are we developing their spiritual literacy? In our words and actions, are we reinforcing Christian values and Biblical concepts? Our actions have moral and value laden implications – our children need to know the underpinning that informs what we do. Our children need to learn right behaviour but what is even more important is the right thinking that shapes our behaviour.

Moses, in Deuteronomy 6, understood this. In an age when values are thin on the ground the child of Christian parents needs to be continually shaped by Biblical standards. “We are helping at the the shelter on Christmas Day because Jesus wants us to look after the less fortunate.” “You don’t talk to your mother like that because God wants us to honour our parents.” That second example needs to be demonstrated when you visit your parents or when you talk about them at home.

If we consciously narrate the world spiritually, whether watching TV with issues that arise, debriefing a day at school or simply having dinner, we and our children will be blessed as both parent and child are reminded of the “reason why” we behave and live in a particular way.

Categories: Child Theology, christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Reflections | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Through the Praise of Children and Infants …

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:2

It Is Time To Bless Our Children

Our children are called to praise God

In Psalm 8  David is astounded as he reflects on minuscule man in God’s vast cosmos. “Who are we when the universe is so big!” So the fact that we are a little lower than the angels, and rulers over creation is even more amazing. Humanity is important to God.

But I believe the most extraordinary verse is verse 2. Within the cosmos, the praise of children and infants can silence God’s enemies! The smallest of the small in the vast halls of God’s universe have a place front and centre to bring glory to God.

The praise of Children is close to God’s heart. This Christmas churches will have nativity plays and choirs. However the praise of children to God should be front and centre all year round in church, home and school. Children’s praise is not just for Christmas and Easter.

When our naive and vulnerable children sing praises to God and shake His enemies we have evidence of God’s faithfulness. When we parents, adults and leaders only trot them out at Christmas we are stifling our children and their place in His Kingdom.

Categories: Child Theology, christian, Christianity, Church, Devotional, Faith, Reflections | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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