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
Teaching children about prayer is important as they grow in their knowledge and understanding of God. Prayer is communicating or just talking with God, and through prayer we can meet God and share our thoughts, feelings, praises and requests.
For the spring quarter in Sunday school we are bringing back our prayer wall. In the past we have used this space as an opportunity to engage our children in learning about prayer. Each week we share any news and then we draw or print any prayer requests and attach them to our prayer wall. It has been a great way to talk about prayer and have the children involved. They get to see our prayer wall grow each week with messages of thankfulness, notes of praise and requests for help. Even our teachers add to the wall. It’s good for children to see prayer modelled and to see others participating. We regularly check back to see which prayers God has answered and celebrate His faithfulness.
Some other ideas I have come across or used in teaching are:
- Keeping a prayer journal. We have used this one in Sunday school when one of our teachers started it for our grade 1-5 class.
- The ‘five finger prayer’ – There are a number of variations, but essentially each finger represents something to pray for.
- Using verses or passages of scripture in prayer.
- Singing part of a song in prayer.
- Prayer prompts or prayer starters for younger children are a great way to help them get started.
- Popcorn prayers- Everyone just says their prayer request or praise out loud.
My hope is that children learn that God is near and that He cares about the details of their lives. They can talk to Him at anytime and anywhere. Whether it is a quick prayer in the car, a prayer about something in the school yard or prayer around the dinner table- God wants to hear from us!
Here are some wonderful verses about prayer that I had to include:
And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
1 John 5:14
Pray without ceasing. Thessalonians 5:17
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has power as it is working. James 5:16
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Matthew 21:22
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. Philippians 4:6
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26
What are some of the ways you pray or talk with God? I'd love to hear about them.
Tanya Chant, Family and Children's Director
I’m kind of embarrassed to share this photo with you. We’ve recently been doing some home improvements, and updating our kitchen was first on the list. Aside from the big stuff, our collection of dishes and accessories needed some refreshing. My girls love to bake - as do I, and they had been suggesting for some time that we purchase some new oven mitts. There was actually a hole at the top of one where your fingers could come out. Once I purchased the new pair, I realized how old and worn out these oven mitts really were. They served us well, however, and helped to bring many great meals and baked goods form the oven.
At this point you are probably wondering why we are talking about some old oven mitts. Well as any Children’s Director would know – everything can be an object lesson for Sunday school! I began to think about those mitts and their function. Here’s a few thoughts...
God is our protector and promises to help us through all our circumstances. We all face difficulties and challenges at some point in our lives. I can’t even imagine how many times God has protected me or my family from various troubles. Similar to the armour of God, I like the image of God coming between us and the valleys of life – a shield.
“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm 110:114
“But you Lord are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3
I like the comparison of God covering our lives and giving us His word and truths to live by. We can take comfort it knowing that the Creator of the universe has got everything “covered”.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4
“Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Proverbs 30:5
Those old worn oven mitts were helpful in getting the job done. Without them it would be very difficult to complete what was started. I know that we serve a great God who wants the best for us. He helps us more than we could ever imagine….or deserve.
“But those who hope in the lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
Tanya Chant, Director of Child and Family Ministry
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