by Olly Goldenberg/ June 24, 2016
Jesus said, “I will build my church” … “you go and make disciples.” Sometimes we have replied, “God, we’ve got a better idea. We will build Your church, putting on programs and events for people to attend. Then somehow, by them attending the events we run, You can turn them into disciples.”
I say all this tongue in cheek, but the point I am making is that the primary thing we are called to do for this next generation is to disciple them. The curricula that we use are helpful supports, but they will not disciple our children. That is our job.
Using the curriculum as a springboard for each week, how can we help our children connect to God for themselves?
Prayer is key for those we are seeking to disciple. One man led a Sunday School class each week. He was new, but it didn’t take me long to discover that his teaching style was boring. As I took time to consider how to help him, I noticed that every member of his group was suddenly coming alive to God. They were leading friends to Jesus, standing up for God in their schools, and growing in their daily walk with God. I also discovered that their teacher spent an hour each day in prayer for those in his class. His prayers were changing their lives.
When we pray, we invite and make room for the Holy Spirit to work beyond our presentation of the lesson. Galatians 4:19 says, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” As we pray, we call upon the Divine to affect the children we minister to.
We cannot just read the curriculum to the children. If we want the lessons we are teaching to change their lives, prepare well. Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me…” (Mark 9:37, NIV) If you knew that Jesus was coming to sit in on your class this week, would you prepare any differently?
Share the reality of God’s life-changing work in your life. Make the lessons you teach your children not just biblically accurate but personal as you tell of God’s faithfulness to you.
Give your children a balanced spiritual diet while they are with you. Teach the Bible, but also ensure you have times for them to pray (and grow in prayer), as well as to connect with God in worship. Also give space each week for God to speak to the children through the Holy Spirit. We need a generation who know the word of God and can listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Connect with the parents of your children. What areas are they currently focusing on in discipling their children? What areas are they finding difficult? Ask how you can support them as they work with their own children seven days of the week.
Challenge your children with an action point each week, which encourages them to live out their faith. Some ideas are: 1) challenge them to do three kind things for their enemy or, 2) challenge them to pray each day for as many minutes as they are years old. Of course, the children will expect you to rise to the challenge too!
One week I challenged my class to share the gospel with one person. That night I realized that I was going to be stuck in a Christian conference all week. I had to escape the doors of the conference to go to a shop so I could find an unbeliever. The next week the children were very keen to see if I had lived up to the challenge.
Having challenged them to live for Jesus in a specific area of their lives, we need to follow their progress. Did they do the challenge you set? Jesus calls His disciples to not only hear His Word, but to also do it.
At times this will mean us taking time to call the children at home. One teacher decided to do just that. With the parents’ permission, she started calling her children each week to build relationships and encourage them. These children all started to become more alive to the things of God and live more outspoken lives for God as they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Her class was made up of five-year-olds, but she did not let their young age stop her from taking their discipleship seriously.
All of this is more work than simply turning up to share a lesson. This is the expectation of a pastor and minister of the gospel to see those under their care grow with Christ. As children come to know God and step out for Him, the more they will grow. In living for God, the children will find God living in them. This is the work of discipleship. This is what we are called to do.