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Children's & Youth Discipleship
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Children's & Youth Discipleship 

What does it mean to “Disciple” our kids?

“Go therefore and make disciples” Matthew 28:19

 

It’s a good question. One that more than one parent has asked me. And, to be honest, over the years I’ve given different answers, based on my understanding of what it means to be a disciple and what discipleship looks like.

 

The word disciple literally means “student, learner, or follower.”  Technically, the word disciple only appears as a noun. The idea of using “disciple” as an action verb is a strictly Christian usage. Generally, it is understood in Christian circles that “to disciple” someone is to help someone to become a follower of Jesus. Discipleship is the work of discipling.

 

So, let’s put all of that together

  1. A disciple is someone who learns or studies or follows someone or something.

  2. To disciple someone is to teach them about that person and what it means to follow.

  3. Discipleship is the condition or situation of being a follower or a learner of a philosophy, belief, or person.

 

I know that’s not what we typically think of when we talk about discipleship, making disciples, and discipling people. These aren’t necessarily the things that come to mind when a parent is told that they need to “disciple” their kids or a Sunday School class describes its new curriculum as a “discipleship program.” 

 

Very often our ideas of discipleship, especially successful discipleship, have what certain outcomes – to make a disciple would mean someone became a Christian, got baptized, join the church. For parents, to make a disciple would mean that their kids would grow up to be Christians, followers of Christ, and stay in church. These outcomes are often what our curriculums and programs and teachings are aimed at – the goal shapes the means.

 

But what if those goals aren’t necessary the right goals. Of course, those are good goals and every parent’s hope and every minister’s dream, but what if the goal of discipleship isn’t to make converts and churchgoers.  What if Jesus’ command to “make disciples” is to help people know who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him, even if they choose not to do so for a time?

 

I cannot help but think of Jesus.

 

More specifically, lately, I remember Judas. Remember Judas? He was one of the 12 disciples. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle. Jesus, the Son of God himself, discipled Judas. He poured into Judas and let Judas get to know him in the most intimate circle. Judas was numbered with people like Peter and John. And Jesus was his pastor.

 

And Judas chose not to follow Jesus. He chose to turn his back on his pastor, his faith, and his community.

 

As I sit with that reality, and I think about some of the people who I love so very much who have chosen not to follow Jesus, I recognize that even Jesus could not make people follow Him. He could not “make disciples” by our definition. He offered life. He gave wisdom and love and a place to belong. He also gave a choice.  If Jesus were to mark sheets of paper with his discipleship successes and failures, multitudes would fill the fail column and the success column would dim in comparison.

 

To know who Jesus is. To know what it means to follow Him.

 

If our children, our neighbors, our family, our fellow Christians – if all of these people who interact with us on a daily basis know who Jesus is and what it means to follow him, we are indeed making disciples. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can draw hearts to Christ – we can share the reason for the hope we have in Christ, the One we follow (1 Peter 3:15).

 

Jesus tells us to “make disciples.”  Disciple literally means “student, learner, or follower.” To make disciples is to teach people about Jesus and help them to follow Him. How? In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  We can follow Jesus. We can tell others about Him. We can love God and love others and share the peace of Jesus like Jesus told us to. And in doing so, we are in fact making disciples.

 

I’ve become more and more convinced that if the people we influence know who Jesus is and know what it means to follow Him, we’ve absolutely answered the call to make disciples, even if they, like Judas, don’t choose at this time to follow Him.

 

Parents – follow Jesus. Talk about Him with your kids. Share the hope you have. Teach them who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. Talk about Him when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Duet. 6:7). Make disciples.

Ministers – follow Jesus. Talk about Him with those you serve. Teach the good news of who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him without shame (Romans 1:16). Love God, love others, share the hope of your salvation with all who ask. Make disciples in pews and classrooms, in grocery stores and schoolyards.

 

Be a disciple. And in doing so, make disciples.

Family Faith Formation
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Family Faith Formation

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Next month, we will be celebrating Easter!

 

As your family celebrates Easter this year, it’s the perfect time to tell your kids THE STORY of all stories.  The great story of Scripture, God’s Great Rescue Plan! 

A couple of years ago, I shared the following story with families in our church and to this day, kids who heard the story still remember it.  Invite your kids into the greatest story of all times and let them be drawn into the wonder and mystery that is our faith.

“The Story”

Props: 2 red hearts, one black lightening bolt, one brown cross.  (I cut mine out of construction paper, just have them prepared ahead of time)

Gather your family together and pick one adult to be the story teller.  Everyone else will help with the props.

Okay you guys, I need your help today to tell a story. And this isn’t just any story; this is THE STORY. The story of all time! And you get to be a part of it!! So, who wants to be my first helper?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

All great stories have a great first line. Usually we say “Once upon a time” but… How about we start it this way… In the beginning, God created… EVERYTHING! He created the earth and the sky, the bugs and the fish, the trees and the flowers, and then he created us. And when he did, he looked at us and said, “Man (because there was only a man at first) I love you!” And Man looked at God and said, “God, I love you too!” And everything was perfect.

(Choose child to hold Black Lightning Bolt)

Then one day, something terrible happened. Everything was perfect. God loved Man and Man loved God and all was well until… Well, as you know, every story has to have an evil villain so we are going to call our evil villain.. SIN. (refer to black lighting bolt).   Sin snuck right into that perfect world, being the sneaky villain that it is and it BAM! Came right between God and Man!! God still loved man very much but man choose Sin over God. Things were not perfect any more. It was a very sad time. Man was sad and started doing sad things, more and more sad things, and SIN kept pushing Man further and further away from God.

But God… he’s the good guy in our story… God still loved Man very much. He knew that Sin was out there trying to steal Man’s love and even before Man had chosen Sin, God had a plan in place to bring Man back to Him. God did something absolutely amazing, like a total SUPERHERO move!

(Choose child to hold Brown Cross)

God did an amazing thing. He decided to leave His place in heaven where he was safe and come to earth as a Man, and Man called Jesus, and fight the evil villain. It was an epic battle.   Jesus told the villain he couldn’t’ win, that he would defeat him, and Sin fought by telling Man to do evil things until one day, one very sad day, Man put Jesus on the cross because of Sin. Man killed Jesus. It seemed like all hope was lost.

Now, we’ve watched some great Superhero shows right?   Those shows, they are basically getting their story line from THE STORY, so you probably know what’s going to happen. Because in those movies, when the superhero looks totally defeated by the villain, what happens? (Kids might say things like the superhero comes back to life, or gets stronger, or beats the bad guy)

That’s right!! Sin isn’t strong enough to beat Jesus. Just when we think all hope is lost TA-DA, the grave opens and JESUS ISN’T THERE because He is Risen!! Sin is defeated!!!! God Wins!!!  Oh, wait, but what about Man?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

Because Jesus beat Sin on the Cross, Man has an amazing opportunity. If we want to, we can have that perfect love relationship with God again. Sin cannot stop us from loving God and it could never stop God from loving us. We can go to God anytime we want because of Jesus’ victory on the cross and say, “God, I choose to love you and hate Sin. Jesus, you’re my superhero!”

(Have the kids lay all the signs out on the floor in a row)

Now, you may ask, why I told this story today. Because right now, on Palm Sunday, we are right in the middle of the story. We are right here.

(Point between lightening bolt and cross)

This week we will remember the moments that led up to Jesus being put on the cross by Man because of Sin. We will remember some sad things. On Maundy Thursday, we will remember the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. On Good Friday, we will remember Jesus dying on the cross. I don’t know about you guys but I always cry at that part in superheroes, you know, when the superhero gets hurt and you wonder if He’s going to be okay. And I will probably cry this week too as we get to that part of our story.

BUT… and this is so important

On Easter Sunday, we will celebrate the BIGGEST SUPERHERO VICTORY OF ALL TIME!! On Easter Sunday, we will remember that SIN was defeated! That our HERO came back to life and SAVED the DAY! And that we can be in the perfect love relationship with God again.

So during the time before Easter, as you go about your days and you think about the Story, take time to remember. You might even cry. But know this, The Story doesn’t end in sadness. It ends with a LOVE SO BIG it wins every time! And you get to be a part of that story!!

This story may spark some great conversation at home.  The Story provides the perfect way to get into some amazing conversations with your kids and Holy Week is a great place to springboard those Faith Talks about who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him.

Intergenerational Opportunities
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Intergenerational Opportunities

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When we talk about including all ages in corporate worship times or discipleship spaces, we need to take into consideration the substance and structure of the church service or class.  Frankly, a traditional church service format is often difficult for kids to engage with.  Kids and youth are relational; church services tend to be focused on the individual.  Kids like to talk; church services tend to encourage silent reflection.  Young children like to move; church services tend to lean towards sitting still..for a long time…

 

Before we launch into ways that we can work towards making church more welcoming to all generations, we must first acknowledge this simple fact: Being present in a space and being welcome in a space are not the same thing. There are many places where we might be physically present and at the same time feel like an outsider, like we don’t belong. Being welcomed into a space creates a sense of invited presence, the feeling that we are not only able to be present but that our presence is desired and anticipated.

 

Here are some practical tips for making your church service a welcoming place to kids as well as adults while keeping the focus on Christ.

 

1. Welcome the kids, every week, by name – This may sound redundant, but there is much to be said for a personal greeting from a friendly face and welcome to the service.

2. Have a kids bulletin or pew card – Many churches use a bulletin for the service.  A fun way to invite kids into the service is to have a bulletin just for them. A pew card in the back of the pew where the hymnals or prayer books are kept can help everyone welcome children and their parents to the space and provide kids a place to color or draw during the service.

3. Create Kid’s Activity packets – Make life a little easier for mom and dad and have kids activity packets with coloring sheets, crayons and quiet activities for the kids to use during the quieter service times.

4.  Provide space for parents with little ones – In the back of the sanctuary, consider putting some rocking chairs or space for parents to walk or bounce their littlest ones to sleep. Some churches also use a cry room where parents can be with their child and still see or hear the service.

5. Engage the kids in worship – Kids love to be a part of something.  Give them the opportunity to help lead worship, hand out bulletins, take up the offering, participate in communion, help with the sound/lights, read Scripture, share a testimony – anything that lets them know they are a vital part of the congregation. Create some jobs if need be; think creatively about finding ways to promote active engagement rather than passive observation.

6. Reaffirm your covenant – When children are baptized or dedicated in churches, often the church will recite or affirm a covenant with them to walk with them as a community of faith.  Every now and then, let the kids hear you re-affirm that out loud and with your actions.

7. Consider your traditional service line-up – Kids are used to things being pretty dynamic and fluid in their world.  The structure of service may be familiar to you, but maybe it’d be nice to change things up a bit.  Do the sermon earlier in the service or break it into chunks.  Do songs that have motions every now and then.  Collect the offering at the end instead of in the middle.

8. Give parents easy wins – The time in church is just the start of the conversation.  Help parents continue it at home by creating a “Faith Talk” insert for the bulletin with questions from the sermon.  Older kids can fill it out during church and parents/caregivers can use it to continue the conversation at home. A sermon note sheet for kids can work much the same way; have the kids or youth fill it out during church and then give it to parents to continue the conversation.

9. Engage the congregation – If having kids in service is new to your church, give the congregation fair warning. Provide a time for them to meet the kids (put faces with names and parents with kids) and encourage a time of fellowship for all before adding the kids to the service.  Some churches start with including all ages in the service once and month and grow from there.

10. Give kids a voice – You’d be surprised how much we can learn from children but often we still follow the “Kids should be seen and not heard” rule. Give kids an avenue to share what God is speaking to them by affirming to them that they can and do hear from God and giving them a space to share that.  A bulletin board where they can hang a picture they drew in service or a note they wrote about what they learned can create a space where the whole church can hear and affirm their hearts for God.

 

If you are curious about more practical ways to create holistic intergenerational worship environments, I invite you to email me at christina@refocusministry.org and set up a time to chat! Through the generous support of the Great Lakes Conference, all of the services of ReFocus are available to you at a substantial discount. I would be thrilled to walk alongside your congregation in connecting generations in meaningful relationships for lifelong discipleship.

Final Four
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Final Four

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1 Book - 1 Video - 1 Website - 1 Resource 

BOOK

‘Twas the Season of Lent by Glenys Nellist

Twas the Season of Lent: Devotions and stories for the Lenten and Easter Season. Twas the Season of Lent is a 40 day family devotional and storybook that explores the life, words, and works of Jesus and encourages families to draw closer to God during the Lenten Season.

This lovely book focuses on Jesus’s mission to the least, the lost, and the lonely, with each story and accompanying prayer prompt encouraging children to try to be more like Jesus. There is also a free downloadable activity packet that accompanies the book.

 

VIDEO

Discipleship & Spiritual Formation by John Mark Comer, Barna, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC9LKf3yfSA

John Mark Comer (teacher, author, founding pastor of Bridgetown Church) sits down with Rich Villodas to discuss what he’s learned as he stepped back from pastoring, why he’s underwhelmed by a Sunday-centric model of discipleship and the formative power that a rule of life has played in his personal life and leadership.

 

WEBSITE

ReFocus Ministry, www.refocusministry.org

The ReFocus website has undergone an update. What's new in 2024? We're so glad you asked. We are so excited about what we have in store for 2024 including.... 2 New Family Faith Formation curriculums - Worship Tools (coming in February 2024) and Gospel Tools (coming Summer 2024); 4 NEW Free Resources; 4 ReFocus Roundtables; 2 FREE Webinars; and a Family VBS Adaptor Curriculum (Make ANY VBS a Family VBS) and trainings for your whole team!

and so much more! To get added to our mailing list and receive first dibs on all our resources, let me know at christina@refocusministry.org!

 

RESOURCE

Getting to the Heart at Lent from https://www.loyolapress.com/catholic-resources/parish-ministry/intergenerational-catechesis/lent/

 

Lent begins on Valentine’s Day! This resource from Loyola Press allows you to host an event during Lent that engages the whole congregation. As an intergenerational event, it will help everyone grow in their understanding of the three disciplines of Lent–prayer, almsgiving, and fasting--as it fosters community across generations in your congregation

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