Teach Them Diligently: Global Methodists, Prioritize Faith Formation With Our Children
"Teach your children..." the command to show our children the ways of God resounds like a drumbeat through the Holy Scriptures. God's mandate for us is to expend our creative energy, our patience, our knowledge and focus on the task of teaching our children the scriptures and promises of Almighty God. Foundational members of the GMC, let's get to this sacred work!
One of my favorite examples of education done God's way is found in the fourth chapter of the book of Joshua. The Lord orders a pillar to be built for one purpose and one purpose only: to make the children curious. He knew that there would be generations following behind that first generation to live in the promised land and they would need to understand their heritage. So God gave the children something to point at and say, "What's that?".
The Old Testament scriptures are very clear about the vital element of teaching our children the commandments and the ways of God. Just take a quick glance at Deuteronomy chapters 4 or 11. Look at chapter 22 of Proverbs. These are some obvious and commonly known scriptures about teaching our children. A close read of the ancient words reveals that this mandate is one that God takes very seriously. Teach your children. Teach. Your. Children.
My deepest prayer for the Global Methodist Church is that we will shoulder this responsibility with joy and purpose. That we will be a people who, with a unified voice, declare that our children are the most important members of our community. That Global Methodists will not drop the ball by offering educational material that is boring or unorthodox or filled with childish storybook illustrations of cartoony Bible "characters". This last item implies to children that our scriptures are merely stories rather than an accurate telling of our heritage. I pray that we will teach the truth with love, energy, excitement, and creativity. That our children will know our God because we were faithful.
Global Methodists, rise up and commit to this great purpose. In all Wesleyan traditions, laity have traditionally been at the forefront of children's Christian education. Now is the time to strengthen and support these teachers and to add to their numbers. Help them to thrive in an area of ministry that has, in many congregations, fallen prey to the twin perils of apathy and lack of commitment. Children's Christian education matters. Ask anyone whose Sunday school teacher led them to Christ.
What does excellent children's discipleship look like? What are the ingredients that typically result in children who know what they believe and why? What can we do to elevate this ministry so that we can get excited about it again? There are so many things! I have listed here a few of my favorites.
Incite curiosity. The best learning experiences begin with curiosity. Leverage this quality, which children have in abundance, to enhance their engagement. This is what God was doing when He had the leaders of each of the twelve tribes bring a stone out of the Jordan River in order to form a pillar of them. It was put there only to make the children ask questions. They ask, we respond. That is good teaching. There are some ideas for doing this in the link below.
Engage the senses. Teach the children using as many of their senses as possible. Remember that there are five senses. Give them things to taste, smell, hear, touch, and see. There is always a way to give any lesson a little plus. Use your imagination. For a few ideas to get you started, click the link to Ministry Magazine below.
Get excited. If the lesson doesn't excite or inspire you, how can it possibly excite or inspire a child? Even if you have to fake it, be enthusiastic about it. Daniel facing lions? This is powerful stuff. Talk about like it is powerful. Fishes and loaves multiplying? This is amazing! Treat it that way. Be the teacher that really gets it.
Remember that the Scriptures are true. So often we tell our children "Bible Stories" in the same tone and with the same conviction that we use when we are reading "Goldilocks And The Three Bears". But hear me clearly: true faith formation is about teaching children the true history and real events that actually occurred as God drew near to His people. Teach with the same certainty that you would if you were explaining the events of September 11. Teach of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Paul, Silas, or Matthew in the same way that you would teach about the Queen of England. You might not know them personally, but you do know they really existed. Remember that faith is being certain of things you have not seen. Teach with this certainty.
Now that Global Methodists have laid the groundwork for a fresh breath of Wesleyanism let's get back to the work of inspiring children to love and worship Jesus through our own faithfulness combined with fearless, diligent teaching. Let us pick up the ball that has been dropped for decades, and teach our children well with joy and gratitude in our hearts. Being asked to pass the faith to our children is a privilege and an honor. Commit to this.
Early Childhood Specialist, DCE
I wrote an article for Ministry magazine that gives more details about this. Here is the link if you want to learn more. https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2021/11/Go-build-a-pillar
I also have a presentation that I love sharing with faith formation leaders. Reach out if you'd like me to share this with you!
Visit me at www.joyfulharborhome.com I'd love to hear your comments or suggestions. Shalom!