It was a tough time when we left the hospital with our first born child. When we put the new-born baby in the car seat my wife was convinced it would kill the baby. I was convinced that if we did not put our baby boy in the car seat he could die. It was an unpleasant conversation, and I'm sure the hospital people wanted us to drive off - which we could not do until we had resolved this issue. My wife won the debate. On the way home, we thought that the hospital had given our son some special liquid that we needed to purchase, but no drug store sold it. Again, we were worried that we would make a mistake that would harm our baby. No one gave us an instruction book to consult for these issues. Did you feel that way with your first-born child? The Bible gives us instructions about child handling. It does not include car seats, but it is lifesaving. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!
JANUARY 25, 2014
Key Thought : We should cultivate our young people’s talent and enthusiasm and train disciples for Christ at an early age.
Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 6:6,7.
Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
How can we, in whatever situation or background we come from: love, protect, and nurture the children within our homes and influence?
c. Personal Application : Are there children who need your time, efforts, or encouragement that you could encourage and uplift? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your relatives states: “The church has too many rules and too much of a judgmental attitude toward young people who want to fit in with their cultural generation. People always tell me what I shouldn’t be doing, or wearing, or listening to, or watching; but no one spent time with me doing anything they thought I should be doing.” How would you respond to your relative?
Have a volunteer read Luke 2:51,52.
Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
What influences determine whether a child will be subject unto his parents and increase in wisdom and stature with God and men?
Personal Application: How much influence on how you act, trust others, and think has to do with your mother or father’s training? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your friends states, “Why are so many youth today disrespectful, disobedient, and sacreligious? Is it a lack of parental guidance? Societal influence like music, TV and movies? A lack of the traditional family? What can be done for those who have such great disadvantages today?” How would you respond to your friend?
Have a volunteer read Matthew 18:1-6.
Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
Why are younger people more apt to accept Jesus and want to be baptized than seasoned adults?
Personal Application : When did you accept Christ as your Savior? How can we help youth who desire baptism to follow up with their Christian growth? Share your thoughts.
Case Study : One of your neighbors states, “I don’t think many young people are ready to be baptized. They don’t know or understand many of the doctrinal foundations of the truth and couldn’t give a Bible study on different subjects. They might have a heart desire to follow Christ, but is that enough?” How would you respond to your neighbor?
Have a volunteer read Mark 10:13-16.
Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. What does it mean to receive the kingdom of God as a little child? It can’t mean being naïve and ignorant. What was Jesus saying about children’s hearts and attitude contrasted with adults?
c. Personal Application: How does the church help the youth in the church to come to Jesus, know Him, and grow in His character? How can we improve in this area? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.
(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.
How Youth Groups Can Defeat Their Purpose
Posted on January 18, 2014 by William Earnhardt
The Sabbath School lesson on discipling children reminded me of a post someone shared with me on Facebook that really hit home. The article, “Youth Groups Driving Christian Teens to Abandon Faith” mentions that many (not all) church youth groups help teens connect with each other, but fail to connect teens with the church or with God. When they outgrow the youth group, they leave the church and God, which they never were connected to anyway.
Some youth leaders have even confessed to me that they had no relationship with Jesus themselves, and wanted me to teach the kids how to have the assurance of salvation. The youth leaders connected with the kids, but were not connected to Jesus. That’s why the experience of the younger members ended there instead of going on to lead them to becoming disciples for Jesus.
What we need are more youth leaders who can connect with kids and connect with Jesus.
Youth groups can shoot themselves in the foot if they aren’t careful. Some youth groups isolate kids from the church family instead of integrating them into the church. I once had a 20 year old woman tell me, “I don’t want to go to that church meeting tonight because it will all just be grownups and I want to hang out with kids my age.”
The youth group failed this young woman, because at age 20 she still saw herself as a kid instead of identifying herself with the grownups which she now is! She is too old for the youth group, but does not realize that she is now an adult. She is on the outside because she is too old for the youth group and has never been connected to the church family or even with God.
No, the solution is not a young adult group. I am not saying it is wrong to have one, but that there is a problem when a 20-year old does not realize he or she is not a little kid anymore. Putting them in a bracket that is not for children will not fix the problem. At age 12 Jesus did not become a youth or young adult. He became a man. The term teenager was not even recognized until the 19th century. There were no youth groups as anyone 12 or older was now a part of the regular church congregation.
I have served in smaller churches with no youth groups, and saw teens thriving in the church family. There was no segregation of the young and old. In one church in West Texas, the bulletin editor was 13 years old, and was the most responsible bulletin editor I’d ever seen. She was home schooled, and if I did not have my sermon information called in before 1 pm Wednesday, she was calling me!
She is now married with two children, in her early 30′s and still very active in her church family, and, more importantly, has an experience with God. She never made the transition from youth church to the “real” church, because she was brought up in the ”real” church from the get-go. Unlike the 20-year old woman I mentioned earlier, she sees herself as a grownup and has for a long time. She stopped seeing herself as a little kid back when she was 13 putting the bulletin together every week.
Youth groups, like any other type of Church group, has a nourishing purpose only as it helps young people feel connected to Christ and part of the entire church family, instead of just a part of a little group connected only with each other.
Commentary for the January 25, 2014 Sabbath School Lesson
“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’” Matthew 18:2-5, NIV
For centuries, educated minds have pondered the question of nature versus nurture. Was a child born a blank slate which any life course may be written upon? Or did they come pre-programmed to achieve a pre-determined destiny? The former is exemplified in statements like, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Latching on to that perspective, totalitarian states have often exercised very close control over children’s upbringing and education, even to the extent at times of removing parents from the equation altogether. The Nazi Lebensborn program was based to some degree on these ideas.[i] Under this program, racially pure, Aryan individuals were encouraged to procreate with other Aryans and the children were then taken by the state and then directed through a process of education and eventually adoption by politically approved families. This process was monitored throughout by the S.S. under Heinrich Himmler, who apparently adopted a couple of the children himself. Many of these children were also kidnapped from foreign countries and subjected to a process of Germanization. Some estimates place the number of children seized in this way as upwards of a quarter million. Many of the children thus seized refused repatriation as they had become successfully programmed by the German re-education process.
Within Christianity, some feel there might be a similar process taking place within those denominations that operate parochial school systems. Citing the biblical passage that maintains if you raise a child a certain way, he will not depart from it when he is older,[ii] the denominations encourage voluntary participation in these parochial educational programs. This Tabula rasa approach to child rearing bears uncomfortable similarities to some aspects of the Lebensborn, where children may be indoctrinated into a system that discourages individuality and critical thinking in favor of the officially approved perspective on the world. Children, who tend to be more malleable than adults, may grow to adulthood without ever experiencing the dialectic that occurs when well-reasoned challenges to the prevailing paradigm are made. These challenges are simply not allowed, and those children who express them may simply be side-lined or expelled from the school if they persist. As may be seen through recent controversies at La Sierra University in California, this may be even happen to faculty as well.[iii] However, in all fairness, the termination of employment of faculty or the expulsion from school of the students has certainly not reached the level of the Lebensborn response to uncooperative participants. They were usually granted a one-way passage to an extermination camp.
When we consider that La Sierra University is a part of the Seventh-day Adventist parochial system, it seems contradictory to have such an approach when the denomination is so heavily influenced by the writings of Ellen White, whom many in the denomination herald as a prophetess, and whose writings many feel bear the distinction of being directly influenced by the Holy Spirit. She wrote, “Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator—individuality, power to think and to do. The men in whom this power is developed are the men who bear responsibilities, who are leaders in enterprise, and who influence character. It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought. Instead of confining their study to that which men have said or written, let students be directed to the sources of truth, to the vast fields opened for research in nature and revelation. Let them contemplate the great facts of duty and destiny, and the mind will expand and strengthen. Instead of educated weaklings, institutions of learning may send forth men strong to think and to act, men who are masters and not slaves of circumstances, men who possess breadth of mind, clearness of thought, and the courage of their convictions.”[iv]
Such a sentiment is admirable and would be a profound check on the tendency to reduce the Christian faith to little more than a thinly veiled attempt to indoctrinate children with politically acceptable propaganda intended to prevent any potential “boat rocking” down the road. The temptation to indoctrinate children with unquestioned acceptance of adult belief systems is powerful and needs such checks. The Seventh-day Adventist denomination is not alone in facing such temptation. There has been much controversy in the past as to whether Christians have been guilty of kidnapping Jewish children to raise as Christians much as the Nazis kidnapped the Lebensborn children. The case of Edgardo Mortara from the late 19th and early 20th century is an example.[v] Born to Jewish parents, he was surreptitiously baptized as a child by a Christian household servant, and the Catholic Church used that as a pretext to seize the child and raise him under the guidance of the Augustinians as a Catholic. Their efforts were so successful that he eventually became a priest and was used as weapon of the Vatican to evangelize Jews to Catholicism. As might be expected, the attempts of someone taught only to think in line with accepted Catholic dogma met with very little success in his attempts to convert Jews.
Perhaps this may be why Christian denominations meet with as little success as they do in proselytizing among the well-educated. They have an inadequate experience in critical thinking, relying instead on hackneyed phrases that might trigger recognizable responses among the indoctrinated, but tend to fall flat when offered up as supposedly profound statements to the educated. Examples might be “Fall on the Rock of Jesus,” or “I believe this because the Bible says so,” or “We’re in the end times.” Many educated individuals will simply see statements like these as preludes to absolutist dogma like “Turn or burn.” Since there is little room for critical thinking here, many will simply turn and walk away rather than become the target of one-sided lecturing that assumes the one being lectured is ignorant and needs to be “set straight” about God. They already know this usually means the issue is more about control than faith and that the one doing the lecturing is not so much interested in saving souls as in perpetuating their perception of God in others.
Interestingly, those who take such a “blank slate” approach toward others have a very hard time accepting the idea of nature as opposed to nurture. When some, as those in the LGBT community sometimes do, assert that they are what they are because God made them that way, they respond as though nurture is the only possible explanation for those who are different from them. That being the premise, their solution is to re-educate or de-program those whom they feel were incorrectly educated. Whether or not one’s sexual orientation is based on nature or nurture, the Christian church has much to answer for over what they have done to “correctively” reprogram individuals even to the present day.
We have distorted the image of God from one of loving grace to one of judgmental condemnation, and then we have imposed that image through education and controlled socialization on the innocence of children. Much as white supremacists have programmed their children to be dogmatically racist, we have too often programmed ours to be arrogantly and dogmatically Christians after our own distorted perceptions. When they critically confront those teachings, we too often retreat behind our walls of politically acceptable dogma and lament how they have become “lost to the church.” However, they cannot be lost to what they have never known. They may have never encountered the real “body of Christ.” They may have only known the organization that seeks to cast them in the mold of plastic uniformity where acquiescence to “do this” and “don’t do that” means success, and any challenge to those requirements, however well-reasoned, means failure and shunning.
Of course this does not mean that a child should simply be allowed to raise themselves. The more advantageous perspective for both the child and the church is to recognize that both nature and nurture are what create the well-rounded individual. But that nurture, rather than programming the child, should seek to expose to the child to every opportunity to think critically and engage the world around him or her in meaningful dialectic. The scientific method is a valuable tool for studying and understanding nature, both in us and in the world around us. How to construct a logical argument as a foil to dogmatism is also valuable. We might also consider as an adjunct to familiarity with the biblical narrative an understanding of alternative narratives and philosophies. Those who would argue against those who accept these alternatives as truth without knowledge of their perspectives are most likely only able to argue from ignorance and probably will receive the appropriate response to such a presentation.
A child has a hunger for knowledge of the world around them. Most parents can tell you that each child passes through a stage where their favorite question is “Why?” Perhaps enabling one another to continuously sustain that innocent inquisitiveness is the recipe to avoid the calcification of Christianity in the unbending matrix of dogmatic assertion.
[i] “The Nazi Party: The "Lebensborn" Program (1935 - 1945),” http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/
[ii] Proverbs 22:6
[iii] “Educate Truth and Consequences: The Assault On La Sierra University Continues,” http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2009/09/10/
[iv] “Source and Aim of True Education,” Education, Ellen G White
[v] “Edgardo Mortara,” http://en.wikipedia.org/
04: Discipling Children - Hit the Mark
Guidance It was a make or break moment. His future was riding on what he would do. Confinement and possible death on one hand. Favor, prosperity and possible freedom on the other. He was a young man without a home, alone in a foreign land, living the life of a slave. He had few opportunities that promised anything more than a continued life of the same. Now everything was on the verge of change.
The odds had been stacked against Joseph for most of his young life. What he thought was a happy home full of his father’s love and the companionship of his brothers was really an incubator that would be monumental in the history of the world.
Instead of the love and nurture that older brothers should give, he was subjected to ridicule, scorn and extreme jealously by those who should have been his mentors and protectors. Their attitude toward him set in motion his years of slavery. He was destined to be another statistic; another casualty of the coldness of human hearts.
Now he finds himself confronted by a woman of great power and influence appealing to his vibrant manhood. He had rebuffed her sexual overtures on other occasions but this time was different.
“But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.” Genesis 39:11, 12
We marvel at Joseph’s firmness of character and integrity. We applaud the depth of his conviction when he declares “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9. We are fascinated as we see subsequent events, on the surface disastrous, turn into opportunities never equaled in a lifetime.
“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Genesis 41:39-41
How is it possible that a young man, separated from his home and his religion at an early age, could withstand such temptation and live such an exemplary life? How is it possible that a young man without a matriculation through church school, regular attendance at religious services, access to inspirational writings or fellowship with believing saints, could serve as a model for the best that godly living offers?
The answer traces back to one of our best loved texts, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. Joseph as a lad learned from his father the true meaning of worship. Prayer and fidelity to God was instilled in him from an early age. And at the optimum time those fireside chats, those lessons learned about God through nature, and the unfolding of the meaning of sacrificial offerings paid off in decisions that would preserve his heritage and save an entire nation from starvation.
The Bible gives numerous examples to encourage us in leading our little ones in godly paths. Young men and women who stood upright through trying times shared a common denominator of having godly, dedicated parents. Daniel and his three companions, Moses, and the prophet Samuel were all products of the determination of their parents in preparing children to fill their place in this world and for the world to come.
This week’s study, Discipling Children, reminds us that Christ’s instruction to His disciples to suffer the little children to come to Him was more than just a suggestion. It was a call for leaders and parents alike to lead their little ones to Him. It pays off.
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
Give examples of what “Train up a child in the way he should go” means to you.
Isn’t it true that all children trained properly become godly individuals?
Why do you answer yes or no?
What characteristics are shared by Daniel, his companions, Moses, Samuel and Joseph that can be traced back to their upbringing?
What role, if any, does nature play in training our children for God?
Isn’t it true that the more time children spend in church settings, the better off they will be?
Why do you answer yes or no?
Isn’t it true that Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” encourages corporal punishment?
Why do you answer yes or no? (note: spare the rod, spoil the child is not found in the Bible)
Give examples of what it means to lead children to Jesus.
We close this week with the words of God to the Children of Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. Even then the intentional training of our little ones was included in the divine instructions: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
1. The Children's Ministry. Do you remember special church times just for children? Sabbath school in a children's division? Story time? Vacation Bible School? Or maybe even children's church? How important is discipling children in your church family? In your home? By adding "in" after the "n" in "discipling," have we spelled out a word for something we need more of for our children? Or not?
2. The Hebrew child. Can you imagine raising your children in a society that practiced child sacrifice? Or that measured every child's worth by his or her economic value? How was it that even Hebrew families came to follow bizarre and evil practices? Were all the families of the Children of Israel led astray by adults who raised their children as surrounding people who worshipped Baal did?
3. Jesus' childhood. Couldn't Jesus have come to earth as a full-grown human male? Why did He choose instead to be born a tiny baby and grow in "wisdom and stature"? Does the twelfth year of a child's life signify something special today? Could it? Should it? What did it mean to Jesus to be considered a young man at the age of twelve? Why didn't Jesus attend the religious schools? Were they evil? Or just less important than something else to Jesus? If so, what was that something else?
4. Healing the children. If Jesus came to your church and you had a sick child, would you hesitate to ask Him for healing? Do you know a parent who has stood helplessly by as his or her child suffered from a serious illness or injury? What do you think our lesson author means when he writes (Tuesday's lesson) "Death should be reserved for older generations"? How do you feel when a child you love recovers from a disease? Should we pray more for the children we know?
5. A fearsome warning. Do you possess a child-like faith? Would you like to? What about children most often illustrates the nature of Jesus? How can we teach our children to love God? What is the difference between innocence, as recommended in this lesson, and doubting? How can people treat children in a sinful way and then show up for church or Pathfinders as if nothing had happened? What does God think of such church members? What should we do?
6. Suffer the little children. Does that phrase (suffer the little children) mean "Let the little children suffer?" How much did Jesus love the children who gathered around Him? What did the children bring to Jesus that their parents and other adults didn't possess? Do you ever feel that children at church "get in the way?" What can you and I do to show our love for the children? What about being a good example to them? What opportunities are yours to share?
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