Should We Disciple Preschoolers?

preschool-blogOften, our family devotions are not a thing of beauty. Tears are shed, screams can be heard far outside our front door, and every other word of the Bible story ends up being, “no” or “stop that.”  At times, April and I feel like the whole thing is one pointless endeavor. But we keep pressing on. We keep setting aside time in the evenings to share the gospel with our 2 year-old and soon to be 6-month-old because we want them to love Jesus.

In Deuteronomy 6:6-7a, God commands all parents to follow these instructions.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.

As parents, we are called to teach our kids about the Scriptures. We are charged with putting the gospel before them. We are responsible for evangelizing our kids.

So why start so early? Why exhaust ourselves trying to reach kids who struggle to form complex sentences? We start early because our kids are always learning.

Our son and daughter cannot grasp the doctrine of progressive sanctification. But they can begin to grasp the idea that the Bible is important to their parents. They can begin to know that God is real and that we can communicate with him. They can begin to realize that there is a time to worship God. And they can begin to see the need to be self-control. In short, even as babies, our kids can learn much about God and their world. The famous pastor J.C. Ryle once said,

I suspect we have no idea how much a little child can take in of the length and breadth of the glorious gospel.

And so, we seek to fulfill God’s command in Deuteronomy 6 by having a family worship time. We read a little kid’s devotion book, pray, and sing a song. Some nights, our family worship time begins with, continues onto, and eventually ends in discipline. And  at times, neither my wife nor I feel like going through the ordeal. But we press on, knowing God’s calling on our lives, knowing that more is at stake then our comfort and feelings.

And we are happy to report, that God has blessed our efforts in some small ways. In the last few weeks, we have been able to stretch our devotion time from about 3 minutes to 5 minutes. On occasion our son will even ask to read the devotion book. He now says, “Ey…men” when we finish praying. And our little guy has even begun asking April to pray for his food.

We know that our son does not fully grasp the significance of the spiritual terminology with which he is interacting. And we are ok with this reality because as one author said, “We give our children big truths they will grow into rather than light explanations they will grow out of.”

We are excited to see that our son is ever so slowly growing into these big truths. Before our son can embrace Christ, he must first grasp who our savior is. As J.I. Packer said,

And where there is no clear knowledge, and hence no realistic recognition of the real claims that Christ makes, there can be no repentance, and therefore no salvation.

Knowledge is the prerequisite for salvation.   

Thankfully, our preschoolers can learn gospel truths. We do not have to wait till they are six or seven before we turn on the hose of Biblical instruction. Because God knows this, he commands us to expose all our kids even our preschoolers to the gospel. If you are not actively teaching your kids, I encourage you to start today. It probably won’t be a picturesque family moment since your kids (like mine and like us) are sinners prone to rebellion. But it will be fruitful. Our kids will learn. The seeds sown today will eventually grow and blossom.  

And at the end of the day if we are willing to dress our preschoolers in our favorite team’s colors, should we not also be willing to expose them to our life giving God at the earliest of ages?  

Review of: The Big Picture Interactive 52-Week Bible Story Devotional

Sargeant, Anna. The Big Picture Interactive 52-Week Bible Story Devotional. B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, 2016. pp224. $13.49

I cannot lie. I am a big fan of the Gospel Project and all things related to it. It combats the biblical ignorance of our day by walking families through every book of the Bible. With colorful pictures, great lesson, and fun crafts, the study shows kids how all of scriptures points to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to producing great Sunday school materials, the Gospel Project brand via Lifeway has produced a ton of great resources for the home. They’ve released board book Bibles, children’s Bibles, and a student study Bible that empower parents to reach their kids with the gospel.

And now Lifeway has released its first Gospel Project devotional for kids called, The Big Picture Interactive 52-Week Bible Story Devotional For Kids. Although the title is not too catchy, the content is! If you are looking for a great devotional for grade school kids that will connect them to the story of Jesus, then this is the devotional for you!

How It Works

As the title suggests, the devotion is divided into 52 weeks. Each week stars with a one page devotion filled with application from a Bible story such as creation, the ten commandments, or the parable of the sower. The next page contains a colorful picture that your kids might recognize from Sunday school with a brief summary of the story underneath it.

Turn the page, and you come across a whole host of additional information. There is a “Read It” section, containing verses that show how the principles of the story appear all over the Bible. Underneath the “Read It” section, the “Christ Connection” shows how the story fits into the entire gospel narrative. Also a QR code on the page links you to the Gospel Project Sunday School video that creatively recounts the Bible story you just read.big picture devotoin

On the next page over there are three sections: “Live Big.,” “Big Picture Questions,” and “Dear God.” The “Live Big” section is full of great ideas that will help your kids apply scriptures. The activities include everything from planting seeds, to praying for the lost, to getting your family to do a trust fall (You might want dad for that one). The “Big Picture Questions” help kids apply the lesson to their own lives, by challenging them to think about whether they would obey God or cheat on a test. Would they be willing to love the bully next door? Lastly, each devotion ends with a “Dear God” section. It is a prayer designed to show the kids how they can ask God to equip them for every good work in light of what they have just studied.

How you go through the material is up to you. You could do it in a day, a few days, or stretch it out over the whole week. Regardless of how you do it, this devotion brings the truths of the Bible into your kids’ lives through stories, Bible reading, videos, activities, discussions, and prayers. With so many resources at their disposal, parents should be able to connect their kids to the gospel.

What To Like:

Of all the kid’s devotionals I’ve come across, this is one of the best because it faithfully teaches Jesus in a kid friendly manner. It helps kids to see that salvation comes through Christ alone through faith alone. And then it helps them to understand what it means to be a Christian in real life. Because the devotion covers the full scope of the biblical narrative, it touches on a ton of relevant topics for kids and their families. It talks about death, suffering, how to fight the urge to work our way to heaven, how to overcome the fear of man, and much more. In short, the devotion hits on a ton of the issues of that kids struggles with day in and day out. And as families work through the stories and illustrations, they will learn that God’s word is relevant for their lives and hopefully grow in their faith.

What Not To Like:

Although, the devotion does many things well, it has a few draw backs. First, there are no big picturedirect scripture references. Although the devotions are filled with supporting scriptures, the reader is never told where the Bible stories come from. I feel that having the scripture references printed somewhere in the devotional would help the kids and parents grasp that the stories are historical. Second, a few of the devotions such as the one about Zacharias and the one on Samson, assume that the reader already knows the story (p.76, 122). The “Hear It” section does offer a short explanation of the story. But I could easily see a reader doing these devotions and not gaining a full understanding of that particular biblical text. And lastly, some of the devotions focus on secondary points of application. For example when talking about Samson on page 76, the devotion says we need to trust that God is always working. And while this is true conclusion, I think the main point of Samson’s story is that Samson shows our need for Jesus, the true deliver. And thankfully, the “Christ Connection” says just that. “Jesus would come as the last Deliverer, saving through His life and His death those who would trust in him” (p.78). Sometimes, I wish the “Christ Connection” was the devotion.  But at the end of the day, these are all minor concerns. Anna has done a great job of walking people through the Bible in 52 lessons. This was not an easy task.

Final Thoughts

Like all of the other Gospel Project for Kids materials to date, the 52-week devotional does not disappoint. It is a great resource for families with grade schoolers. The devotions are filled with illustrations that most every kid can relate to. (Using the stories of Corrie Ten Boom and Martin Luther King to explain the gospel is an added plus). Moreover, the “Live Big” and “Big Picture Questions” sections show kids how to insert the gospel into their lives. How great would it be if every kid applied the scriptures by praying for their lost cousins, by doing the dishes, and by getting the bully at school a birthday present? If you are looking for a devotional that will help your young family understand and apply the narratives of the Bible, get this new devotional.

And if your church is like mine and currently uses the Gospel Project Curriculum, this devotional will be an even bigger blessing. It will enable you to work in tandem with your church I will allow your church to reinforce your family worship time.

Are you ready to get copy of the 52 Week Bible Story Devotional?

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Can We Trade Church For Travel Ball?

trade blogIt’s here! Travel Ball! Families with young kids will increasingly be spending their weekends eating fast food, sleeping in bug infested motels, and getting sun burned as they sit on hot metal bleachers! Oh the life! Not too surprisingly, travel ball often requires families to miss church from time to time. This is nothing new. But the trend of bloggers justifying such excursions with biblical language is an unexpected twist that we should stop and consider.

It’s Ok To Skip?

The arguments for skipping church go something like this. My daughter’s coaches pray before every game. As she plays, she learns teamwork, how to be an encourager, how to overcome adversity through Christ, and she gets tons of opportunities to share about Jesus. Moreover, all the travel provides our family with quality time together. Surely an event covered in prayer that teaches our kids tons of godly life lessons must be a good thing. Thus, parents and kids should not feel bad about skipping church. Essentially they are still doing the Lord’s work.

I have personally witnessed the benefits of sports. God used baseball to humble me and to expose many bad attitudes in my heart. And today, my exploits on the baseball diamond continue to supply my sermons with helpful analogies. Positively, sports teach kids leadership and relationship skills. Because God created sports, they can and should be used to advance his kingdom.

Dress Shoes or Cleats?

But the question still remains. Should the diamond be allowed to replace the pew? Is this a good trade?

To answer this question, we have to determine the purpose of church. Why do we go to church?

Biblically speaking, the church exists so that the people of God can display “God’s glory and wisdom” (Dever). The church accomplishes it mission using a three pronged approach. First, People go to church to worship God together through hymns, the preached word, and prayer (Col 3:16). As people glorify God, they grow in their knowledge and understanding of Jesus. Second, people worship together to encourage and edify the body of Christ (Heb 10:25). They main way people learn to live out the gospel is by being around other believers. And lastly, the church comes together to demonstrate the love of God to the lost and dying world (John 13:35). What should make the gospel compelling to the outside our church doors is how Christians care for each other. As the song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

Don’t Skip?

When we skip church, we are skipping out on our chance to grow in knowledge of God, to be encouraged by our bothers and sisters, and to demonstrate the love of Christ to the world. What do we what do we get in return for swapping dress shoes for cleats? We get a short prayer, valuable life lessons, and some quality family time. None of these things are bad. But, they are not a substitute for the church. This swap is the spiritual equivalent of the trade that sent John Smoltz to Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander. Yeah, the Detroit Tigers will not be celebrating Mr. Alexander’s election to the Baseball Hall Of Fame anytime soon.

If we consistently skip church, our lives will suffer. We will become more stressed, will struggle more with sin, and we will become a poorer witness. As Jesus says, we do not survive on life lessons but on “everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3). To know God well, we must spend time with his bride, the church. There is not substitute for the church.  As Thom Rhainer writes,

Corporate worship is not one option among many. It should be a consistent and persistent practice of all believers.

Travel Ball is not evil. But it can never take the place of the church. Are you ready to treasure the Bride of Christ?