Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teaching Children About Giving

As a child I was blessed to have been taken to the Lord’s worship services by an aunt and her husband. I can still remember lessons that I heard. I have no doubt that having early exposure to the church is part of the reasons I am a Christian. However, I learned little about giving. I saw adults give one dollar on Sundays. So what did I do when I first obeyed the gospel? I gave a dollar! It took time and teaching for me to learn the Lord’s instruction on giving.
How can we train our children in the matter of contributing on the Lord’s day? It isn’t really a difficult command to understand. However, a generous disposition must be cultivated in the heart. A person who fails give as required by the Lord reflects either an ignorance of what he expects, or deeper spiritual problems. A grudging giver is weak in appreciation for what God has done.
Parents ought to help young children learn about giving from the time they are very small. The reasoning behind having them place their pennies into the contribution plate is to develop a habit, but it isn’t enough instruction. As children begin to understand and are able to do a little math, they are old enough to learn about how to give. However, before children are able to “purpose,” they can learn to be grateful, which is paramount to becoming a “cheerful giver.”
Bible class teachers can help parents by teaching the many Bible history stories about people who were grateful, and who gave because of their appreciation for the Lord’s help and care. A series of lessons on thankful people would be a profitable study.
Abraham (Abram) learned of the capture of Lot, his family, and goods by marauding kings. After an exciting chase, Abraham and his 318 trained men, rescued Lot and his family and belongings.  On his way home, Abraham met Melchizadek, a priest of God, who declared that it was “God Most High” who was the true deliverer. With a thankful heart, Abraham gave a tenth of all of his goods. (Genesis 14.)
One of the few high points in the hearts of the Israelites after they were brought out of Egyptian bondage were their generous contributions to the work of building the Lord’s tabernacle and its furnishings inside and out. They gave out of “willing” hearts. They gave so much that they were restrained from giving any more! The heart is involved in contributing to the Lord’s work (cf. Exodus 35:21-29; 36:5-7).
When Daniel heard of the decree that prayer to Jehovah was against the law, he prayed and “gave thanks” even though he knew his life was at risk (Daniel 6:10).
Of course, we all know the account of the widow and her two mites. Why did she give the last that she had? Was it not that she was thankful for her life, and for the Almighty God? It surely wasn’t because she couldn’t have used those last coins in her possession. Else, the Lord would not have complimented her so greatly as being more generous than those who gave more than she (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4) (cf.
Paul concludes 2 Corinthians 9 with “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.”  Paul connects a grateful heart to generous contributing to the Lord’s work as he urges the brethren to complete a previous pledge (2 Corinthians 9:5). 
From the time a child is in a cradle roll class, teachers need to be expressing thankfulness for Jesus in lessons, songs, and prayers. For none of us will obey the command to give out of selfless motives, unless we are thankful for the love of Christ for us, and the amazing gift of himself that he gave.
In his article, Giving As An Act of Worship, Wayne Jackson shows that God views giving as sacrifices of worship ( Since we are to worship in spirit and truth, we need to teach our students that the Bible does have some guidelines for giving. The new covenant does not demand tithing, as required under the Old Testament regime. It has been well argued that we are under a better covenant. So how can we give less? One may say they are unable to give a tenth. That may be true in the case of some poor widow who doesn’t have enough for her living. However, how many of us could cut down on luxuries? Those in affluent societies have become so accustomed to things/activities that are expensive luxuries, so that they are now viewed as necessities. Many of our children’s activities are expensive. Children benefit more by teaching them that giving comes before the extras. When God comes first, so does giving.
It will be beneficial for children to learn early in life that giving is to be done every first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2-4). (Note that some of the later versions include the word every translating the Greek word kata.)  Proportionate giving can be easily taught, using coins as visual aids, children old enough can grasp the idea. With effort, a series can be developed using several Bible stories, and the examples of Christians recorded in the New Testament (Barnabas, the Macedonians, the Philippians, etc), and providing some instruction on how and when to give.
If the children in our congregations were taught from early childhood about giving from thankful hearts, would not the church be able to do much more evangelizing in the next generation? May parents and teachers make every effort to help children grow in this grace also (2 Corinthians 8:7).
Recommended Reading:
Mac Layton - This Grace Also
Melissa Lester - Giving For All It’s Worth

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Teaching Good Morals

“The real world is not family friendly,” says religious psychologist, Dr. Kevin Leman (17). He further observes, “…the red-throated warblesnipe is not really our most endangered species. The family is.” Dr. Leman suggests that anyone who doubts his statements needs but to look at the odds: one out of two marriages will fail; likely your kids will be approached by drug dealers; chances are one of your children may have serious behavior problems, and working mothers will probably become stressed out as she tries to “have it all.” (18).

Dr. Leman also notes that there appears to be an epidemic of dysfunctional families. As the doctor considers all the reasons for these problems, he says, “… I am just old-fashioned enough to reduce these problems to some pretty basic causes and effects…. One major reason the families of our nation are in trouble is that moms and dads are really not putting each other, or the family first”(20). Leman understands the “challenges, problems, and dangers” facing our children. He says that, “Kids growing up today are living in an absurd society that puts pressures on them that were unheard of two or three generations ago” (29).

Considering the cultural changes over the past forty or so years, Judge Robert H. Bork remarks, “A nation’s moral life is the foundation of its culture.” In his insightful book, Slouching Toward Gomorrah, he quotes from The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats, who was awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Literature:

“The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

Judge Bork comments upon the last line of the poem, Yeats “can hardly have foreseen that passionate intensity, uncoupled from morality, would shred the fabric of Western culture. The rough beast of decadence, a long time in gestation, having reached its maturity in the last three decades, now sends us slouching towards our new home, not Bethlehem, but Gomorrah.” Yeats himself did not do a single thing to uphold morality, being a womanizer and wanderer in cultic type thinking. But these lines certainly provoke thoughts about passive morality, and the intense propagation of immorality.

Though liberal in his theology, religious socialist Anthony Campolo is on target concerning how society shapes behavior, “Young people are influenced by the dominant values of our culture. Three of the most pervasive values are success, consumerism, and personal happiness” (15).

Charles Colson, having seen for himself the degradation of society, (cf. Charles Colson,, wrote, “The barbarians of the new dark age are pleasant and articulate men and women. They carry briefcases, not spears, but their assault on culture is every bit as devastating as the barbarian invasion…. Their ideas are persuasive and subtle, and very often they undermine the pillars upon which our civilization was founded.”

Solomon stated that there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9). Sinfulness is not a novel idea. Addressing the sin matter, the apostle John tells us, “Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one's own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]” (1 John 2:15-26, Amplified New Testament).

The further from God a society becomes, the more depraved it is. Consider Paul’s letter to the Romans during the early days of the church (Rom. 1:18-32). William Barclay commented, “When we read Romans 1:26-32 it might seem that this passage is the work of some almost hysterical moralist who was exaggerating the contemporary situation and painting it in colours of rhetorical hyperbole. It describes a situation of a degeneracy of morals almost without parallel in human history… So far from exaggerating the picture Paul drew it with restraint—and it was there that Paul was eager to preach the gospel…” (23, 25).

Alfred Edersheim speaks of the Roman Empire’s culture, “It has been rightly said, that the idea of the conscience, as we understand it, was unknown to heathenism. Absolute right did not exist. Might was right. The social relations exhibited, if possible, even deeper corruption. The sanctity of marriage had ceased. … Abortion, and the exposure and murder of new-born children, were common and tolerated, unnatural vices, which even the greatest philosophers practiced, if not advocated, attained proportions which defy description” (259).

Discussion of the Roman society is pertinent to thinking about where we are today. We are in a “new dark age.” Our own culture has spiraled downward over the past several decades closely resembling that of ancient Rome. Abortion on demand, corruption in government, sadistic behavior in families, divorce, babies left in trash bins, homosexuality practiced, tolerated, and propagandized (e.g. Ellen Degeneres, lesbian spokesman for American Express and J.C. Penney, Cover Girl model) is descriptive of most places in the world today. Dark as it is, we must remember that the early church flourished in the midst of all the wickedness of the first century.

How can Bible class teachers train children to be moral in this woefully wicked world? The fact is, the home is responsible for guiding the hearts of children. The Bible school is limited in what it can do in turning the minds of children to serving God. As teachers our primary purpose is to help parents, not replace them. It is so easy to be discouraged as a teacher. Yet, many of us could recount a story of someone who as a child, without parental guidance, learned about God and his plan of redemption by attending a Bible class. So for those few, and for the encouragement of our own children who are spiritual, we can do our best to seek good teaching tools. Some suggestions follow.

Teach that God is. The importance of apologetics for children must be stressed. The constant barrage of evolutionary dogma has an influence upon students. The fruit of Darwinism is wide spread. (cf. Kyle Butt). How can we begin to teach morals if our students are harboring unspoken doubts about the existence of God? When a person voices this idea, “We need to discuss issues, rather than spend so much time on evidences,” they demonstrate an ignorance of the real world. Logic demands a reason to deny “the passing pleasures” of this world. (Heb. 11:24-26)

Teach that God is Sovereign. God’s authority, as revealed in Scripture, has to be taught. The right attitude toward the Holy Book must be ingrained into each child from the earliest years. Unless there is the disposition of respect for God, for who he is, and his word, there is little else we can do to help our students.

Teach personal accountability. Young people must learn that they have personal responsibility for their behaviors. Of course, wisdom dictates that we teach age-appropriately about the expectations of our Heavenly Father, his demands for obedience, and the consequences for ignoring his law. But these concepts must be a part of our curriculum. As we teach, we will be careful to explain the reason Jesus came, that we can be forgiven. But a cavalier attitude toward sin will not be taken lightly on the judgment day.

Teach how to determine what is wrong. The lines of morality are so blurred these days. After hearing a lesson on modesty, some teen girls were overheard making light and giggling about the fact that they were immodest! Too many people think that preaching is just preacher talk, and not required adherence. The fact is that over time the innate moral compass can be so damaged that the worst things become right in the sight of many. Fornication and homosexuality are surely examples of this. It is common to hear people talk about their live-in girl/boy friends and the children they have together. The ability to blush (Jer. 6:15) is numbed by the acceptance of sinful behavior as commonplace and nothing for which one should be ashamed. But what does the Bible say about drunkenness, fornication, homosexuality and divorce? What does the Bible say about honesty, work ethic, theft, etc? What does it say about the church and worship (and worship attendance)? We must teach what the Bible says, and that as the “oracles of God,” it is binding.

Teach Courage. Mary Flannery O’Connor, an American novelist, wrote, “You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you” (Bennett, 15). Standing up for what is right isn’t easy, but we must "push back." Those Old Testament stories that show the bravery of women like Esther and men like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and others can help. Praise students when they share times they have been able to stand up for what is right.

Yes, we must teach about issues. No doubt about it. But a doubting heart will not care about issues. So we come full circle. Teach about God, his existence, his holiness, his omniscience, and how he deals with his human creation. Show how he wants to be worshiped and the way we ought to live according to Scripture. We must teach about the love of God for us by teaching his word, and by our lives.

We are living in dark times. The depressed philosophers/historians (Seneca, Tacitus, etc.) of decadent Rome felt there was only hopelessness. But we have hope in Christ. But it is only “one hope.” The ways of the world are not it. Young people must see the contrast between the world and God’s way. So with a sense of urgency let us press on with the goal of trying to impact our students for the sake of their eternal welfare.

Barclay, William. The Letter To The Romans. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press.1957.
Bennett, William. The Moral Compass. New York, NY:Simon and Schuster.1995.
Bork, Robert H. Slouching Toward Gomorrah. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.1996.
Butt, Kyle. The Bitter Fruits of Atheism. Montgomery, AL:Apologetics Press.
Colson, Charles. Against The Night: Living In The New Dark Ages. An Arbor, MI: Servant Publications. 1999.
Campolo, Anthony. Growing Up In America. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1989.
Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus, The Messiah, Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI:Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1947.
Jackson, Wayne. America, A Nation Out of Control. Stockton, CA:Christian Courier Publications.
Jackson, Wayne. Religion and Morality: The Connection. Stockton, CA.Christian Courier Publications.
Leman, Dr. Kevin. Keeping Your Family Together, When the World Is Falling Apart. Colorado Springs, CO: Focus On The Family Publishing. 1993.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Teaching Obedience

Teaching children to obey is not an easy task. It surely is not a job for the timid! Some children are difficult to train, but they can be taught the importance of obedience, and how it affects our lives. Parents who fail to teach their children respect for authority create problems for us as teachers. Sadly, children who do not learn to obey may never learn to honor and revere the God of heaven.

As Bible class teachers, we are limited in how we can teach children the importance of obedience. Our tools are not the same as those of parents, or anyone who has custody of a child. However, there are ways we can teach about submission. The lessons we present about the consequences for disobedient Bible characters, and the blessings given the obedient are of utmost importance. The value of making lesson applications cannot be overstated. It is so easy for time to get away from us, so that this part of the lesson is overlooked.

Class management is made easier by plenty of preparation. Presentations that are boring, not age appropriate or too slow moving will surely result in less cooperation. However, some children are simply out of control. Should a child become un-controllably mean, violent and disobedient, he may have to be removed from the classroom for the sake of all the other pupils. But one must be careful to analyze the kind of behavior that a child is manifesting. A teacher can do an injustice to a child who lacks self-control, yet who is not mean spirited. We must always conduct ourselves in a loving, though firm way. Condescending words never gain the respect of your students. Nor does it help a pupil to behave.

When beginning a class, some use the word “Hook” to describe grabbing the interest of students. This might be done during the Pre-session, or Lesson Introduction. A creative visual aid or interesting puzzle may be appropriate, depending upon the age of the students. The younger the class the more visuals are needed. However, it cannot be overstated that visual aids must not overpower the lesson. Our classes ought to be memorable, but the foremost goal is to have the lesson remembered, rather than a clever visual. Activities and visual aids must be age appropriate. Using a visual designed for a cradle roll class will leave something to be desired by a junior or teen class. Consider yourself a visual aid. Your students will observe whether you have an honest heart that loves the Holy Scriptures and them.

Love goes a long way in both tolerating less than ideal behavior, and working towards improvement. It also helps a teacher not to take a child’s behavior too personal. To feel rejected by a child can create an unhealthy reaction in a teacher. Sometimes we just have to do the best we can in searching for ways that work with a particular student. Some children simply have more difficulty being quiet or still for an hour. This is why it is crucial to try to analyze each child’s learning style. This cannot be done in a few days, but over weeks. Seek to find what works!

Becoming a treasured and remembered teacher is produced not only during the class period, but in every interaction you exchange with each child. Youngsters may recall the sincere affection and respect we have displayed toward them. We must overlook some childish ways. Pleasant memories, even times of admonishing, can help those young souls on the journey toward heaven. When we do have to discipline, we must remember to treat these kids with as much respect as we do a wayward adult (cf. Gal. 6:1).

James warned, “Be not many of you teachers.” The actual meaning is “Stop teaching!” It would be better to not teach than to hinder the spiritual growth of these children by lazy preparation or a snarling disposition. May the Lord help us as we treasure and teach the souls of these young people.

See: Wayne Jackson, Christian Courier on the Web

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Treasured Teacher

After being out of the teaching rotation for some time, due to the needs of my now deceased mother, I was almost “fearful” as I took my first turn in about three years. I heard how difficult this particular class had been. So, to my precious books I turned for help as I prepared to meet these little people head on!

One of my favorite books on teaching is: Becoming a Treasured Teacher by Jody Capehart. (There may be a newer edition, but the old one can be found on This book appeals to me because I realize that we cannot replace the home environment in the two hours or so a week that we may have our students. However, our pupils can remember us as being special in their lives, and perhaps that will be as meaningful to their development in the Lord as what we teach.

Because of various factors, there are problems in the Bible class. Unlike the public or private school situation, we have these children such a short amount of time each week. We have little clout to “make” our pupils behave. And we have the sensitivity of some parents who cannot endure any constructive criticism. This is not to say that teachers must be doormats to endure any kind of behavior that a child wants to demonstrate. Disrespect and violent behavior cannot be allowed, even if the student must leave the classroom.

Many teachers express dismay at the increased challenges they now have in teaching. How could we expect fewer issues, when there are more problem homes now than in the past? All we can do is the very best we can to try to find a way to reach such children. We cannot replace the home. (See: Jason Jackson, Will Our Children Trust In The Lord?, and Research Shows Parenting Approach Determines Whether Children Become Devoted Christians,

It is my opinion that one of greatest challenges teachers face today is that of some children being unable to focus upon any one thing for long. Why is this? Of course we know that many children are labeled with Attention Deficit Disorder. But who knows how many of these are truly physical problems (cf. The Myth of the A.D.D. Child: 50 Ways to Improve Your Child's Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion, by Thomas Armstrong). The author does not discount true cases of Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But he raises questions concerning over-diagnosis. He gives helpful suggestions for overseers of children with attention problems in this book. Some of these can be used in our Bible classes.

If a child has so many distractions in his life, from toys, to games, to problems at home of every possible kind, how can he learn to focus? If he is rarely (if ever) read to, if he seldom sits quietly with a book, intrigued by the story and the imagination of his own mind (instead of being entertained by some fast moving visual media outlet), if he never has to sit quietly for a longer prayer at home, and many other similar circumstances, how can he learn to sit still? As teachers, we must really "rev" up to be able to catch as much of the minds of these children as we can.

In our attempts to be effective Bible class teachers, it is of great importance to keep learning styles in mind. Jody Capehart suggests that a wise teacher will vary her methods to provide something for every learner in each lesson. This challenge is not an easy one, when you only have about 45 minutes. However, such a goal is worthy of our efforts. She breaks learning styles into five categories. Ms. Copehart recommends that you have a form for your lesson plans which includes:

For the Looker (Visual) learner I will provide:
For the Talker (Auditory) learner, I will provide:
For the Toucher (Tacitile) learner, I will provide:
For the Doer (Kinesthetic) learner, I will provide:
For the Fact Finder, I will provide:

Recognizing these different styles of learning and personalities will enable us to think more carefully about how we teach. We are all a combination of these styles, but we may lean towards one or another. Perhaps our learning styles will be different from time to time, depending upon our varying circumstances. The same will be true of children.

To become a treasured, remembered teacher, we must “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:15-17). The window of opportunity is now.