Month: April 2014

what is “fruit that will last” ?

QBKidsA question I am often asked about children’s ministry is “what program do you use for your ministry?”. 

As the end of the year comes up quickly I am already looking at what programs are available for 2014. There is a smorgasbord of children’s ministry programs available, all fun, vibrant and informative. The choice is tough, because I want to choose one that is equally as fun as it is engaging with the Bible. I want kids who attend our church to know that Jesus is King and Saviour- but I also want them to have fun while they learn. There are so many programs available, I find myself asking what makes one program better than the rest; which would “grow more fruit” than the others.

But what does it mean to have children ‘grow fruit’? How do you measure the spiritual ‘fruit’ of a child? How do you know when the lesson you’ve taught them has sunk from head to heart? James 2:17 tells us that faith without works is dead. When children start to use their hands to demonstrate what they know in their heart, then we can see real ‘fruit’. But what is this ‘fruit’? Is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, as in Galatians chapter 5? Is it telling others about Jesus like He says in John 15? How do we know that what we are teaching will last?

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Yet statistics in Australia are telling us that once a child becomes an adolescent, they are much less likely to stay at church, and more often than not, leave church altogether. So what is this ‘fruit’ that will last and what do we teach that they ‘will not depart from it,’?

While many children’s programs and lessons are vibrant, fun and informative, we often unintentionally measure their ‘fruit’ or effectiveness by how much Bible knowledge or moral conscience children have. But knowledge of how many colours in the rainbow in the story of Noah is not enough. Knowing the difference between a ‘whale’ and a ‘big fish’ in the story of Jonah is helpful, but not life-changing. Even memorizing Bible verses each week is ineffective if children have no idea why they are learning them. In a world where children know that there are ten commandments, but don’t know why God’s people were given them, and when children know that Zaccheus was short but not that Jesus forgave his sins, faith becomes little more than head knowledge. In that world, blessings become ‘gold stars’ that God ‘gives’ to ‘good people’ and sin is something that only ‘bad people’ do. There is no need for Jesus in that world – and that is not what we desire. In fact, we desire the opposite.

We want children to know God. We want them to know that he made the rainbow as a promise to Noah, because God is good and His glory is magnificent. We want children to know that Jonah was swallowed by a ‘big fish’ in an act of undeserved grace by our loving heavenly Father. We want them to know the Bible. But more than that, we want them to know Jesus. Personally and authentically, for themselves. We want to see kids bringing their friends to church because they want them to hear about God’s love. We want to see kids praying for their world because they see the need for Jesus around them. We want to see them worshipping God in song because they are overwhelmed with the grace He has shown them. This is the fruit we strive for. Whether we talk about the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit in Galatians or the ‘fruit’ that is telling people about Jesus, children will only move from head-knowledge to heart-felt action when they are moved by God’s Holy Spirit.

We are blessed to be able to partner with Him in this ministry. We get to see the Holy Spirit grow ‘fruit’ in children when we cease to try to do it ourselves with only programs. The best way we can make a real difference in the lives of children is to be like Him ourselves. Our love for Jesus should be so obvious in our ministry to children that they want it for themselves. If we want to see children grow ‘fruit’ and have faith that will last – it needs to start in our own lives.

[blockQuote position=”center”]-If we want to see children passionate for Jesus Christ, we need to be passionate for Jesus Christ. (Be an example)
-If we want to see children telling others about God’s love, we must tell others about God’s love. (Be an example)
-If we want to see children praying to their Heavenly Father in all circumstances, first, guess what? We must pray often and with them! (Be an example)[/blockQuote]

Fruit that will last stems from a heartfelt passion for Jesus – and that overflows into others’ lives. Children will want to tell their friends about Jesus love when they experience it for themselves. They won’t want to memorise bible verses to win prizes, they’ll be doing it so they can tell their friends at school. Our programs and intentions can be wonderful, but if they aren’t pointing kids directly to the source of the wonder, they aren’t worth the time it takes to photocopy. We need children transformed by Jesus’ love, and they will see this love when we show them what it looks like.
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Footnotes:

Post date: 16/04/2014Post Author: Sally Foord

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Dear reader,

We would love it if you could use/adapt any of the post above or the excerpt below to reference our QBKids news post:

QBKidswhat is “fruit that will last” ?
A question I am often asked about children’s ministry is “what program do you use for your ministry?”. As the end of the year comes up quickly I am already looking at what programs are available for 2014. There is a smorgasbord of children’s ministry programs available, all fun, vibrant and informative. The choice is tough, because I want to choose one that is equally as fun as it is engaging …
For this post and others like it, please visit: kids.qb.org.au

Australia Talks Family

QBKidsWed 14 – Thurs15MAY 201410.30am start
ConversationThis is a gathering of influential people from across the diverse Australian Christian community to be confronted by the challenges for children in families today and to begin a conversation and a shared journey towards a better future. Through a listening process – to each other, to the ‘voices’ of our community, and to God – let us dream together and partner together for a better future.

Where: Melbourne City Conference Centre333 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Victoria

Cost: $130

For more details: australiatalksfamily.org.au

Post date: 04/04/2014Post Author: Phil Day

[hr toptext=”” size=”” custom_size=”3″ hide_mobile_hr=”true”] [spacer height=”10″ mobile_hide=”true”] [innerOneHalf][button text=”Clicking here will take you to view the ~ ATF brochure.pdf ~ brochure” type=”link” size=”large” rounded=”false” link=”http://kids.qb.org.au/wp-content/uploads/gravity_forms/4-69b042ad220d1ee77b12b46a1055bc6f/2014/04/ATF-brochure1.pdf” target=”_blank” color=”red” ][/innerOneHalf] [innerOneHalfLast][image url=”http://kids.qb.org.au/wp-content/uploads/SavetoFile.jpg” title=”SavetoFile” raw=”true” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”10″ border=”smallBorder” width=”490″ height=”84″][/innerOneHalfLast] [raw][g-map address = “333 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Victoria” latitude = “” longitude = “” width = “” height = “250” zoom = “15” html=”333 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Victoria” maptype = “ROADMAP” pancontrol=”true” zoomcontrol=”true” scalecontrol=”true” streetviewcontrol=”true” ][/raw] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear reader,

We would love it if you could use/adapt any of this post to reference this event QBKids is happy to promote:

QBKidsAustralia Talks Family | Conversation
Wed 14 – Thurs15MAY 201410.30am start
ConversationThis is a gathering of influential people from across the diverse Australian Christian community to be confronted by the challenges for children in families today and to begin a conversation and a shared journey towards a better future. Through a listening process – to each other, to the ‘voices’ of our community, and to God – let us dream together and partner together for a better future.
Cost: $130Where: Melbourne City Conference Centre333 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Victoria
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For more details: australiatalksfamily.org.au
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I’m coming … ready or not!

QBKidsChildren invite & challenge: Children invite our attention. Children invite our relationship with them. Children challenge us to connect with them in order to understand and meet their needs and help them to continue to grow as whole, faith-full people.

Even before our daughter was born her very presence was an invitation to us as parents. She invited our attention.

There was no escaping this invitation. “Here I am, please attend!” After her birth her invitations to us revolved around her basic needs. If it was time for a feed, she would invite our attention by crying. If she needed a nappy change or was tired she would continue to invite our attention until she received it. Perhaps the word ‘invitation’ is being generous. Perhaps the word is ‘demand’.

Along with the ‘invitation’ to attend to her to every need also came an invitation to marvel at the wonder and miracle of new life. As well as the crying, her smiles and gurgles were plentiful. We loved saying “yes” to her invitation to smile and play.

Along with the invitation also came the challenges. Her very presence made a difference. Life was different now. For many new parents like us, meeting her needs and making the necessary life adjustments were indeed a challenge.

A child in our midst makes a difference to everything. All our relationships to each other, time, things and space is changed. That’s the invitation we are given. It is the challenge we wrestle with.

A child in our midst

When a child invites us to pay her some attention it is an invitation we can refuse or accept. Even the worst parent is aware of such an invitation of a child. Every parent knows something of the choice to accept or refuse the invitation of their child; to respond well or react badly.

The idea of refusing is scandalous of course. How could we possible ignore such a dear precious bundle … so much personality; so much potential; so much gorgeousness wrapped up in one little poppy (despite her squashed over nose); so much titian hair and … so much noise!!

The reality in the world is that this invitation of newborns is sometimes ignored. Often abuse arises out of ignorance of what is a healthy, helpful response to the needs of children. Another tragic reality is that help is not always possible. In any events like these, children suffer.

Fundamentally the invitation of a child at this age is to invite each of us to be trustworthy … to live up to the trust bestowed upon us as a parent, carer and/or provider of the healthy, helpful and good things the world has to offer. Trust is earned and a child will yearn trustworthy people and situations in their life until she finds them.

At every stage of life and development a child will continue to invite attention in a growing variety of ways and on a variety levels. We will continue to choose how we will respond to those invitations. We will continue to rise, or not, to the challenges presented.

A child in our midst makes a difference to everything. All our relationships to each other, time, things and space are changed. That’s the invitation we are given. It is the challenge we wrestle with.

God as ‘loving parent’

One of the facets of God’s story is the one that comes to us of God as ‘ultimate loving parent’. It is the story of God’s willingness to come to individuals and into the midst of faith communities upon their invitation. It is the story of God dealing with challenges along the way. God has been forever writing new chapters on relationship with us humans. We also have also added our story chapters down through the ages of our experience of this God who comes to us.

To put this another way, as humans coming into the midst of God, our very presence is an invitation to God. God is not disinterested even though we may be. God also awaits out specific invitations to come and to relate well with us. God responds with special attention whether we deserve it or not. God comes to us even though sometimes we don’t feel that he does. God’s story is a story of willingness to respond to our invitation. God comes. God listens. God relates. God provides. God rescues.

A child in the midst of a faith community

When a child comes to church she enters into a new, much larger family where again, her very presence is an invitation for attention. As the church family we are made up of all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds and with a variety of ways of expressing our Christian faith. Children in our midst are people we just can’t ignore. Because of who they are, they invite our attention through a number of remarkably lovely ways as well as some potentially challenging ways.

Here again we have a choice. Even though they are amongst us we can choose to ignore them or to pay attention to them and their needs. We can choose to stay ignorant of their needs … or not. We can choose to do nothing and fail to provide for their nurture … or not.

[blockQuote position=”center”]Herein lies the challenge … because if we ignore children, they will go away. If we don’t provide spiritual nurture, they will go away.[/blockQuote]

In attending to children, the challenge is to give ourselves to the work of understanding each child. Each and every child is different. They come in different sizes, have different physical abilities, different social, mental, spiritual and emotional needs. They develop differently, have different personalities. The list goes on.

A child can not often put into words what her ‘needs’ are. ‘Wants’ are often inappropriately expressed. Nonetheless, she does invite us to attend to her ‘need’. One of the most precious things we can do to show our acceptance of their invitation is to be as God to them. Be a loving parent. Listen to them. Kneel or sit beside her or raise her up so that you are at her eye level. Pray for her as you listen to her. Pray for wisdom as to how to answer her ‘need’ even though her ‘want’ may be unreasonable. Please don’t show you are shocked even though you may be. Ask clarifying questions to gain understanding. Thank her for coming to you with her invitation for connection. Realise the honour and privilege it is that she has invited you into her world.

Herein lies the challenge … because if we ignore children, they will go away. If we don’t provide spiritual nurture, they will go away.

Children come in families

The parent/s have a primary responsibility to nurture and encourage the child so that he or she may develop as a whole person towards maturity. Another challenge for a Church family is to journey with parents in their task … to work out a cooperative partnership where the primary responsibility of parents is affirmed yet parents are equipped in and resource for their role.

The special relationship of the faith community towards the child can also be expressed through the nurturing of the parents in their own faith development so they may confidently help to guide their child in the ways of faith in God.

It has been said that the best way to help a child is to help their parents whenever this is possible. This is a challenge that faces us as a church.

Find ways to support and pray for individual parents and families.

Programs of teaching and encouragement may be helpful in nurturing parents and children’s workers. This may include programs such as parenting and discipline skills, understanding faith/spiritual development in children, leading a child/adult to faith, understanding your own and a child’s personality and learning styles

Many of us need healing in order to overcome brokenness, bitterness & damage caused by past relationship which impede our relationships with children. Providing support, healing prayer, education and appropriate referrals when healing in relationships is required will make a huge difference to a home environment. Healing is a circuit breaker for further generational damage later on.

It will be the church’s relationship with each individual child and parent and your prayer for them that will be the major deciding factors in whether or not they accept our invitation to faith and church family life together.

Children Invite! Children Challenge!

Children invite our attention. Children invite our relationship with them. Children challenge us to connect with them in order to understand and meet their needs and help them to continue to grow as whole, faith-full people.

For Reflection:

1. A child in our midst makes a difference to everything. All our relationships to each other, time, things and space is changed. That’s the invitation we are given. It is the challenge we wrestle with. Are children meant to make a difference by their very presence or should they be noted and then ignored?

2. In what ways do we ignore children at different times and in different contexts?

3. In what ways are we ignorant concerning children and their needs? (Trick question … How do we know what we don’t know and how will we find out what we don’t know.)

By Phillip Day
[Phillip Day © midst.com.au … This article is FreeShare … part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Footnotes: http://vcce.org.au/portfolio/617/Reference: Weber, Hans-Ruedi. Jesus and the Children. World Council of Churches. Geneva. 1979.

Notes: Where personal pronouns were required in this article, ‘she’ or ‘her’ were used; the next article uses ‘he’ or ‘him’.

[Phillip Day © midst.com.au … This article is FreeShare … part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.]

Post date: 03/04/2014Post Author: Phil Day

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Dear reader,

We would love it if you could use/adapt any of the post above or the excerpt below to reference our QBKids news post:

QBKidsI’m coming … ready or not!

Children invite & challenge: Children invite our attention. Children invite our relationship with them. Children challenge us to connect with them in order to understand and meet their needs and help them to continue to grow as whole, faith-full people.

For this post and others like it, please visit: kids.qb.org.au

A child in our midst is meant to make a difference

QBKidsChildren invite our acceptance as God accepts them. Children challenge us to accept them as Jesus accepted them.
Some of us find children in our midst an encouraging and stimulating presence. Others of us find them to be an unhelpful distraction. The story goes that an aging congregation called a new minister to church to see if the declining numbers could be turned around. The minister came and brought his very new family. On the first Sunday the young family were in attendance, it became obvious to all that having a small baby in their midst would require some adjustment.

The baby cried.

His presence made a difference. Many of the older women also cried. It had been so long since they had heard the cry of a small baby at church that to them the baby’s cry was a symbol of new life and hope for their little church family.
Not only do children invite attention, they also invite our acceptance of them. While some children might be shy, others are capable of launching themselves at people, invading their personal space and expecting a degree of love and acceptance that they just haven’t earned. They seem to think it’s their right to be loved and accepted. Such children are capable of assuming a level of friendship that probably isn’t really there … except in the mind of the child. Such is their trust.

I know this from my observation of my own daughter. When she was much younger I carefully watched her approach perfect strangers (children and adults) and say hello and expect to play with them. In later years the idea of ‘stranger danger’ as well as a growing reserve meant that she did this less often. Shyer children are no less inviting of our acceptance of them. They are waiting to be convinced of our welcome and trustworthiness. They will be won over by our patient and careful friendship towards them.

[blockQuote position=”center”]The very nature of children and who they are means that they are incapable of doing anything significant to earn our acceptance of them. They are simply themselves, warts and all, and simply invite our acceptance.[/blockQuote]

Now despite all that children are or are not, it is entirely up to us as to whether they are welcome or not. It is who we are as adults, in terms of our character, beliefs, attitudes and desires, that will determine a child’s place in our midst. This might range in response from, “A child should be seen and not heard!” through to, “Let them do what they like!” It could mean that “Children are the future!” or that “Children are part of our present!” (by the way, I only agree with one of these statements and entirely reject the other three. Now there’s a discussion!)

There are also a whole set of other responses that might be operating. In their helplessness perhaps a child stirs up our maternal or paternal instincts. Maybe we are instinctively attracted to a pair of smiling baby eyes and can not easily harm her with our rejection of her. Perhaps a child triggers deeply held prejudices that cause us to favour girls, or boys, or blue eyed babies, or dark haired children. Perhaps a child’s rowdiness causes us anxiety because we have a hearing disability. Perhaps their specific behaviour upsets us because of cultural or traditional differences. Perhaps their apparent lack of discipline at times concerns us. Perhaps prevailing attitudes of our society or sub-culture cause us to view children in a certain light.

And yet there is a challenge before us. Despite a child’s invitation for us to accept her or not … despite who we are and the attitudes that we hold towards children … the challenge is to accept children as Jesus did.
Mark10:13-16 reads as follows: “And they were bringing children to him, that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant, and said to them: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God … … And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.” (cf. Matthew 19:13-15 & Luke 18:15-17)

It was quite possible that in Jesus’ time there was a custom of children asking for the blessing or being brought by adults for the blessing of famous rabbis. Jesus was considered at the very least to be a rabbi if not a prophet or even the prophet “ who is to come into the world” (John 4:14; cf. Luke 7:16). (Weber. p15)

According to Mark’s and Luke’s account, children were brought “that He may touch them.” The touch of Jesus may have even been held in high esteem even by healthy people since it was often by his touch that Jesus healed the lepers, blind or sick. (Weber. p15)

When the disciples didn’t allow children to come forward for this blessing of Jesus, it provoked Jesus’ indignation. This is the only one of two places recorded in the New Testament where it is written that Jesus was indignant, the other being about the use of the temple for commercial use and the injustices around this. Jesus was not indignant at the children for their noise or interruption. Jesus was not indignant at presumption and intrusion of the parents and friends of the children who brought them along. Who was he indignant at? The disciples. Imagine that. The hero-leaders of ‘The Jesus Way’ getting it wrong once again. This comes out time and time again especially in Mark’s gospel. Perhaps they thought that the children or their older companions were ritually unclean and not fit or proper for Jesus presence. Being typical Jews of their time, perhaps they considered children as too insignificant to take up the time and attention of their master. (Weber, p16) Well they were wrong, wrong, wrong!

And so Jesus blessed the children. Matthew’s account concludes at this point however Mark’s and Luke’s accounts add another saying of Jesus.’ Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God .’ Jesus was referring to the actual children which were brought to him therefore implying that “To these and other such children belongs the Kingdom of God.” (Weber, p18) At that very moment, the children received the greatest gift possible, the Kingdom of God, which is both a present and a future reality. (Weber, p19)

Here again is a picture of the God’s Good News presented by Jesus … to us. These children and children such as these have no merit, no qualification and no power or influence. In no way do they deserve to be counted among the ‘poor in spirit’. Nothing qualifies them to be blessed/benefited. Nevertheless, ‘theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven’ (Matt. 5:3)

So, is Jesus being unreasonable to grant such acceptance? Well according to worldly standards and many of societies attitudes towards children and often our attitudes towards children in our midst, yes. However Jesus says, “Let!”

[blockQuote position=”center”]Is God’s generous and gratuitous love towards children turning upside down our adult attitudes to children? Probably! However Jesus says, “To these!”[/blockQuote]

Faith communities everywhere today are seeing this more and more as a challenge … how to accept children as Jesus accepted children. This goes far beyond mere recognition … it challenges us to act out God’s sovereign rule on earth by embracing children with our arms (through welcomes, relationships with small groups and leaders, inclusive programs, nurture, discipling, nurture, parent education and support and much more), blessing them (being of great benefit to them) and laying our hands upon them (praying for them with words of encouragement and dedication).
One of the real challenges is to understand that a child belongs now. A child is not ‘future church’ they are ‘now church’. Working out what the experience of ‘belonging to Jesus and the faith community’ means for an adult is hard enough when it comes to determining member rights and member responsibilities. The challenge is to do this also for a child, a young person, a new comer, for a profoundly disabled person, for anyone really.

Children invite our acceptance as God accepts them. Children challenge us to accept them as Jesus accepted them.

by Phillip Day
[Phillip Day © midst.com.au This article is FreeShare. Part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Footnotes: http://vcce.org.au/portfolio/childreninvitechallenge03/Reference: Weber, Hans-Ruedi. Jesus and the Children. World Council of Churches. Geneva. 1979.
Notes: [Phillip Day © midst.com.au This article is FreeShare. Part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.] Where personal pronouns were required in this article, ‘she’ or ‘her’ were used; the next article uses ‘he’

Post date: 03/04/2014Post Author: Phil Day

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Dear reader,

We would love it if you could use/adapt any of the post or the excerpt below to reference our QBKids news post:

QBKidsA child in our midst is meant to make a difference
Children invite our acceptance as God accepts them. Children challenge us to accept them as Jesus accepted them.
For this post and more like it, please visit our website: kids.qb.org.au/

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