Two weeks ago in Sunday school, I began the lesson for our grade 1-5 class with a game. To my surprise, a number of the kids started shouting excitedly that we hadn’t shared our weekly news. Each week we always start class by taking turns sharing anything special we’ve done during the week like a sporting event, a special outing, some time with friends, or anything that brought them joy since we last saw them. This sharing then leads into our prayer and praise time.
I was thinking about praise this week and how to describe it to our Sunday school kids - what does it mean to praise God? Growing up in the church I always believed that praise was simply the time we spent singing at the start of service. However, praise is actually anything we do that expresses our appreciation and thankfulness for what God has done. A quick search reveals that “praise” is mentioned about 340 times in the Bible (NIV). Along with love, praise is one of the most frequently used verbs/action words – there must be a message in this. Psalm 145:3 reads, “Lord, you are great. You are really worthy of praise. No one can completely understand how great you are.”
In order for children to understand the significance of praise, they need to know more of who God is. By learning about trials, circumstances, characters and Scripture in the Bible, God’s attributes are revealed. God is loving, forgiving, holy, all-powerful, all knowing, merciful, just, sovereign and everywhere – to name a few. When children have the opportunity to know God, they can see He is worthy of praise! They can also see that God truly wants the best for them, and that He is concerned with every detail of their lives. That’s why we like to start every week with a time of reflection, and praising the great things God has done over the past week - we want to build this behaviour into the lives and routines of our kids. James 1:17 reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.”
As Easter approaches, with Palm Sunday this week, we have lots of opportunity for praise and worship. We are coming together as a church community to celebrate the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is through our risen Saviour that we have forgiveness and the assurance of salvation. What greater reason do we have to give praise this Easter!
Tanya Chant, Director of Family & Children's Ministry
There are times in youth ministry where you “hang your hat”. When times are tough, you look to those moments, where you've hung your hat, and remember that what you're doing is good and important. Well, I am not in a slump right now, but I had one of those “hang your hat” moments at SnoCamp this year.
Spiritual temperature can be hard to gauge in youth ministry. Students don't always give you insight into their walk, and so, as youth ministry leaders, we try to gauge the spiritual health of our group in different ways. This was a big question for our ministry last fall, trying to gain some insight into the spiritual lives of our students. One of the things that came from that conversation was the desire to see our kids in God's Word. So, at the start of the year I challenged our kids to make 2019 the year they get to know God better. And to do that, I asked them to pick a book of the Bible, read it start to finish, then answer three questions:
- What does this book teach me about God?
- What does this book teach me about His plan?
- What do I do with it?
Once they completed their reading, and these questions, we'd go our for a coffee, or a snack, and discuss the book they just read. Well, if any of you have students, you know it can be hard to get them to do anything that involves reading. So, since I issued this challenge back at the start of January, I've been out with one of our students, and am in talks to grab a coffee with another, but it's been hard to gauge how the challenge is going. That is, until SnoCamp, one of those moments that I'm gonna “hang my hat” on.
We were sitting down on the Saturday night, after session, in our small groups. Saturday night is always the big message. That's your Gospel presentation, sometimes with altar call. It's a longer message, longer worship time, and it really works to create an atmosphere where teens can really engage with God. So during our small group time we were discussing the questions for that session, and out of that conversation I started to hear our students talk in a way I hadn't before. Simple phrases, but huge encouragement for me, and huge insight into their walk.
“I was reading in (insert book of the Bible here) that it says ...”
Maybe that doesn't seem like a lot to you, but wow did my heart start pumping! Actual audible proof that our students are reading the Bible! And it wasn't just one, I would hear this multiple times over the course of that weekend. It's a small thing, but it showed me that our students are getting to know God better, and you gotta smile at that, and I'm going to be hanging my hat on those moments. God is at work, and it's a privilege to be along for the ride.
When you see our students on Sunday, encourage them, and ask them what book they chose for the challenge. And if they don't have an answer, maybe recommend a book to them. What's your favourite book from the Bible? Which book taught you about God and his plan? Encourage our students to be in God's word. Or, if this is something you struggle with, then I challenge you to join our Student Ministries. Pick a book of the Bible, and answer the three questions above. I'd love to have a conversation about the book you read.
As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve our church in this way.
Mike Sanders, Youth Director at Calvary Baptist Church
A few months ago, Pastor Aaron got us to do a little exercise before his message. He asked us to draw an X-axis and a Y-axis on a sheet of paper, and "plot out" our journey with God over the last year - all the highs and lows. So, I sat there with my little sheet of paper thinking about the past few months and marking down a visual representation of my walk with God.
Some dots were low on my chart - times if difficulty and uncertainty. Some were way up there - times of blessing and seeing prayers answered.
And as I took a moment to look over my work - the mountain tops and valleys my "God walk" chart showed - I realized this chart had everything to do with me, and very little to do with God.
What I mean is, this jagged line was my experience of nearness to God, but if I drew a chart of God's closeness to me during this time, we'd be look at a straight line right across the top. No dips, no valleys, just a steady love and constant nearness.
We're just coming out of Valentine’s Day, and every year when it rolls around I'm challenged in my understanding of what love is, and what love looks like.
Really, what does love look like?
We know that love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
Often, though, I equate God's love with this broken thing that I try to muster up. Which is why I need to be reminded of these words that talk about what God's love is, and what it isn't:
Your love's not fractured, it's not a troubled mind
It isn't anxious
It's not the restless kind
Your love's not passive
It's never disengaged
It's always present
It hangs on every word we say
Love keeps its promises
It keeps its word
It honours what's sacred
Cause its vows are good
Your love's not broken
It's not insecure
Your love's not selfish
Your love is pure*
I have to keep reminding myself of who God is apart from my experience, because my experience so often clouds the truth. God is patient, He is kind...
So wherever you are in your walk with God –– whether your strolling side by side or just struggling to hold on ––
Know that He is near, and His love is constant.
Jolene Sanders, Worship Director
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him
should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
*Pieces, by Amanda Cook
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