Prior to committing my life to Christ I was a physics student and actually managed to complete my university studies while be calling into children’s ministry! One of my experiences was an interesting example of teaching methods !
A large crowd of students from all the physics programs in Southern California filled the hall. A colleague of Paul Dirac, the famous English Nobel laureate physicist, was giving a lecture.
I tagged along with my fellow physics students because it seemed like a cool thing to do. The lecturer spent the entire hour solving an important quantum mechanics problem, doing complex mathematics on the chalkboards around the room, and talking as he went along.
I was lost from the get-go.
When he finished, I tried to nod with that knowing “Of course” look on my face, but I really had no idea what he had been talking about. When he concluded, he stood before the group and said, “Are there any questions?”
After a long pause, one student mustered up the courage to stand up and say, “Dr. So-and-So, I do not understand how you solved that equation.”
Dr. So-and-So looked at him and said, “That is not a question! Sit down! Are there any questions?”
Whoa! Talk about sucking the life out of a room! Only a total idiot would have asked anything after that! Dr. So-and-So stood there for a while and then said, “Good evening.” The event was over.
As we all filed out of the lecture hall, we were very quiet. I think everyone was afraid of saying something and being humiliated.
So much for people skills, discussion, and interactive learning.
Discuss God's Truth in Children's Ministry
In Deuteronomy 6, Moses envisioned a completely different approach to learning. He advocated for interaction and a discussion of the truth and real life.
He captured it in two Hebrew words translated into three English words: talk about them.
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. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Moses taught the Israelites that they should teach the truth to children: Impress them on your children and then discuss the truth they taught.
In other words, the Word of God should be regularly taught to children and we should discuss the Word of God as it relates to the real life of children.
When the foundation of our ministry to children is our relationship with them, we are able not only to teach them the truth, but we are also able to discuss God’s truth as it relates to their everyday life.
Discuss the Integration of God's Truth and Life
Moses had already instructed adults to impress God’s commandments on their children: adults are to repeatedly communicate God’s Word to boys and girls. Moses then urged the Israelites to talk about that same teaching in four different specific contexts.
These four phrases can be understood in two ways.
First, they can be paired as merisms: opposites are juxtaposed to communicate the sense of all-encompassing:
Sit at home (inactive) ↔ Walk along the road (active)
Lie down (sleeping) ↔ Get up (awake)
We human beings are either active or inactive, we are either awake or asleep, so with these four phrases, Moses referred to all of life.
These four ways of being encompass everything we do, 24/7/365. Moses was saying that we should talk about God’s Word with our children in every arena of life.
In fact—and this is the second and completely compatible understanding—these four commonplace activities of walking, resting, awaking, and going to sleep comprised the rhythm of an Israelite’s life.
Moses was therefore urging the adults to discuss with children how God’s truth—the truth that they are impressing on the children—is to be integrated into their everyday life.
[God’s decrees and commandments] are likewise to be passed on to the next generation, not simply enforcing them as law code, but making them the fabric of life and conversation.
With his overall concern for the heart of God’s people, Moses was entirely consistent when he expressed his concern that adults talk to children about the way God’s truth impacts every aspect of life.
God’s Word was not to remain information only; rather, Scripture is to be considered a handbook for everyday living.
Discuss Real-Life Challenges with Children
Our church had developed a divorce recovery workshop, and the children’s ministry had a special program for the children impacted by divorce.
We had about 30 children in the 1st-3rd Grade Room. After a great experiential activity, we taught the truth from Deuteronomy 5:16 about honoring your father and mother in the Lord. In a divorce this can be a very thorny issue and difficult challenge for boys and girls.
After teaching the truth, we divided into small discussion groups to talk about honoring Mom and Dad in the context of their real-life settings. I finally got my group of six or seven boys to share about how hard it is to be nice to their parents when they are separating.
During that discussion, a little boy spoke up and said that he was having a very hard time. He calmly stated that the night before, the police had come to their house and taken his dad away. His dad had attacked his mom with a knife. I was shocked for several reasons.
First, when the boy recounted the incident, he didn’t cry or seem upset. His was just a matter-of-fact statement. It was hard for me to grasp an eight-year-old boy having to go through something like that. And I got the sense that this incident was not the first of its kind.
Second, I was also stunned since I knew the family, and I knew they lived in one of the most exclusive private beachfront neighborhoods in the world.
Then, most shocking of all, was the reaction of the other boys. Not one of them got upset or seemed surprised by the boy’s words; it was as if they could identify with his experience.
Then each one shared his story of his parents fighting and yelling. None of the other boys had witnessed a violent attack or police involvement, but all of them had felt the same kind of pain.
Deuteronomy 5:16 is the Word of the Lord, and each of those boys faced the very real challenge of actually living out that truth.
Discussion in Children's Ministry Encourages Transformation
It is so much easier to teach the Bible truth, ask some right/wrong questions about the facts and maybe even the meaning of the story.
It is an entirely different ministry to discuss the Bible truth and the real-life challenges that boys and girls face.
This, however, is exactly Moses’ challenge to the Israelites. When you engage boys and girls in a genuine, real-life discussion about the Word of God and their real life, we take another step closer to life transformation.
Smooth Stone #4 is discussing God’s Word and real life with boys and girls.
God’s truth is meant to impact our everyday life. That’s why Moses instructed the Israelites to impress upon their children the Word of God and to talk about that teaching in the context of everyday living
Effective children’s ministry focuses on discussing with children, the God’s Word and their real life. (Deuteronomy 6:7)