4 Ways to clarify the gospel when communicating to kids.

Family ministry has been the big wave of the past few years and although I hope that wave does not diminish in any way, I am grateful for the next wave that appears to be coming behind it. It appears that next big wave in children’s ministry is gospel centered teaching for kids. This is something that is much needed and I am very grateful for. If there is one word I could speak to this movement before it really begins to take off it would be clarity.

There have been many different misconceptions about what family ministry is and what it isn’t. What I have taken from that debate is that there is often a lack of clarity, and assumptions are made that shouldn’t be made any time something goes “mainstream”. With a greater use of the word gospel and gospel centered teaching it is massively important that we are clear on what the gospel is and what it isn’t. Not having clarity on what family ministry is and isn’t is one thing, not being clear about the gospel is catastrophic.

I just started reading Trevin Wax’s  book Counterfeit Gospels in the very beginning of his book he takes on this issue of clarity. It’s very important with more and more people trying to define the gospel that we do so with clarity so as not to do more harm than good.

I always love practical suggestions they help me think more clearly about the issue I am addressing. Here is 4 ways to clarify the gospel when communicating to kids.

1. Let the kids know that you need God’s help just as much as they do. For to long in the church those who have communicated the truth of God’s word in an effort to give a great example have either intentionally or unintentionally set themselves up as a hero to be admired. In the previous generation pastors were perfect examples of the truths they preached. To be a good pastor you had to be a perfect christian first. The beauty of the gospel is that it both frees you and humbles you. As a communicator do not be the perfect example of truth, be a living example of grace.

2. Don’t oversimply the truth but rather be a distiller of truth. – The reality of this hit me hard a few years ago. We radically underestimate what kids can understand and retain. In an effort to help kids understand the complex truth of God’s word we make the gospel simple in doing so we rob the gospel of its power. Don’t misunderstand me there is work that needs to be done but simplification is not the work we need to do. We need to put in time, effort and prayer to be distillers of truth.  When you distill something you retain the essential element and remove the nonessential elements, and in doing so actually make that thing far more powerful. For example we need to take the complex truth of God’s word and be mindful to maintain the power of it and communicate it to kids in a distilled not diluted or simplified way. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that “If we can not explain doctrine to children something is amiss.”

3. Use diverse and age appropriate examples in your application. – As a communicator we have our go to examples, the kid at the bus stop getting picked on, the kid sitting alone in the lunch room you know your examples. Don’t get stuck in your go to examples think through each age group and what the gospel implications to each age group are. If you are always giving grade five applications the kids in first grade will feel that they have to be older to understand the gospel. If you use first grade applications all the time the older kids will feel that the gospel is for babies. Use yourself, vary your examples and think through how this applies to every age group.

4. Bring it back to Jesus. – The application of every story needs to come back to Jesus and what He has done that empowers us to go and do. Never miss an opportunity to make Jesus bigger in the minds of kids. I remember in the Chronicles of Narnia Lucy is talking to Aslan and she remarks to him how he is bigger than she remembered. Aslan explained that is because she knows him more. The more we know Him the bigger He becomes.

Things we are doing for Christmas in Uptown: Uptown Christmas Catalog.

Last year we started something in response to our adults doing for the Advent conspiracy. We were looking for ways to get our kids involved a few of the charities our church was supporting were Love146.org an amazing organization but what they do wasn’t the easiest to translate to our kids. We decided to use our Uptown store as an outlet for our kids to learn that Christmas is not about how much we can get but about what we can give to others.

We partner with Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse – Gift Catalog. We choose a few items from their catalog and make our own and allow kids to discuss with their parents which ones they would like to use their points to buy. It creates a built in opportunity for us to discuss how Christmas is about what we can give and what we have been given not just what we can and will get. More importantly it gives parents an opportunity to discuss these same things with their kids at home.

We use the Bible Bucks 2.0 software kids buy stuff from the catalog at our store at the end of the Christmas season we add all the items up and order them online from Samaritan’s Purse. It was a hit last year and we are looking forward to it again this year.

[Below is a copy of the letter we send to the parents and the catalog we give them.]

The Uptown Christmas Catalog

It seems like with every flyer and every TV ad pointing our kids towards the newest greatest toy they can’t live without, the message of Christmas gets more and more faint. As a parent I know sometimes the title wave of all the things Christmas isn’t can be almost overwhelming.

In response to this this year we want to offer the following items for purchase from the Uptown store. You and your child can decide if they want to spend points on any of the below items. More than just offering these items to your children to use their uptown points to make a difference, please use this as an opportunity to talk to your kids about how they can make a difference in their world one small step at a time. Jesus came into our world to serve not to be served. Thanks for making a difference.

Merry Christmas.

Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.