Renewed Goals and Commitments for Discipling Children in 2021

As we welcome in the new year, it is obvious that the “old year” is still upon us in many ways. COVID19 and the numerous related restrictions it has brought about are still in place around the country and even throughout the world. For that reason, many churches continue to face challenges in fully implementing their usual children’s discipleship programs.

While we don’t know what factors we will have to manage in the year ahead, we do know that Scripture commands us to persevere in teaching the next generation the glorious deeds of the LORD and the hope of the gospel. Like Paul, we should be committed to “teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” toiling “with all [Jesus’] energy that he powerfully works within" us (Colossians 1:28-29).

What will it take to teach the next generation in 2021?

Here below are four critical commitments followed by three teaching scenarios in which to apply the commitments:

1. Build from a biblical vision for discipleship 

Instead of working towards re-starting children’s programs as they existed in early 2020, many churches have the opportunity to rethink key components of their children’s ministry and to rebuild with programs, activities, lessons, and resources anchored in a more robust biblical vision for discipleship. This is also a valuable time for parents to do the same by considering what it will require to guide their children toward mature faith in Christ. 

RESOURCES 

2. Grow in partnership between church and home

Over the past year, churches and parents have experienced additional challenges in partnering together for a consistent discipleship model. After adjusting to children’s programs not being able to meet in person, or managing virtual classrooms or the disruption of in-person arrangements that were on and off again, churches and families need a shared commitment to partner together more than ever.

This would also be a great time to share with families a vision and practical suggestions for including children in the worship service.

RESOURCES
  • Foster a robust partnership between church and home—an overview and application of the 2nd commitment from Zealous.
  • Partnering with Your Church | Partnering with Parents—practical ways for the church and families to partner in discipleship (with some ways that will be more applicable after children's programs have re-opened).
  • Children in the Church Services—a vision and strategy for incorporating children into the worship service.
  • Children and the Worship Service—This booklet equips parents and leaders to help children worship God as they participate in the worship service.
    Available in Print and Kindle
  • My Church Notebook Vol. 1 and 2—These notebooks guide elementary-aged children to participate in the service, teaching them to listen actively to the sermon, take notes, recognize key points, and ask questions.
  • My First Church Notebook—This notebook provides parents with helpful suggestions to prepare children who are 3 to 7 years old to understand and participate in the worship service.
  • More Than a Story: Old Testament takes children (ages 6 to 12) on a chronological journey through the Bible with a God-centered, gospel-focused, discipleship-oriented, theologically grounded perspective. This book would be valuable for every family in your church to have as it emphasizes and reinforces the themes in Truth78 curriculum.

3. Put a rock of truth under children

The year ahead has the potential to move toward something resembling a pre-pandemic normal and yet we have no guarantee of that. We, and our children, may instead continue to face unexpected challenges and uncertainty. It’s more clear now that children need to build their lives on an unshakable rock—God’s truth. When inevitable troubles come, we want children to stand firm on the truth of God’s sovereign rule, His goodness and mercy, and His sure promises. We want them to have a rock-solid faith that remains steadfast and proves genuine in the face of the challenges we’re facing now, but also for whatever trouble may come their way in the future. Additionally, these troubling times provide opportunities to impress upon our children the all-satisfying treasure and joy that can only be found in Jesus!

RESOURCES
SCRIPTURE MEMORY TOOLS
The Fighter Verses Study will help guide you and your family through key Scripture passages and arm you with tools to strengthen your faith in Christ and equip you to fight the fight of faith. Begin the year with Part A materials for 13 weeks of encouraging one another through the battles of life. See sample pages.
  • The Fighter Verses Discussion Guide: Set 1, Part A—a quarterly discussion guide for parents, small group leaders, teachers, or individuals. This resource will help leaders facilitate discussion as you study each passage.
  • The Fighter Verses Study Guide: Set 1, Part A—a quarterly devotional for group participants or individuals. This resource guides you through questions to study and understand each passage." 
  • The Fighter Verses Journal: Set 1—This journal can be used as an extension of The Fighter Verses Study or by individuals who are simply memorizing the Fighter Verses and want to incorporate it into their personal study or devotional times.
  • The Fighter Verses Study: Set 1 Coloring Book—This coloring book gives children of all ages a visual representation of each of the 52 verses in Set 1, along with a key truth statement to focus on.
  • Foundation Verses Resources—The Foundation Verses are 76 strategically chosen Bible verses designed to give toddlers and pre-readers (ages 2-5) a firm scriptural foundation of basic biblical truth. Resources include: a revised Verse Pack in color, a Coloring Book, and a Visuals Packet (available in ESV and NIV), along with a Tote Bag and Memory Stars.

4. Pray with dependence on God’s sovereign grace

When so many things are uncertain, we’re reminded how utterly dependent we are on God every moment. Therefore, our starting point must be God-dependent prayer—for our church body, our pastors, elders, deacons, teachers, parents and for our children and youth. Among our prayers in this new year, let's pray...
  • for teachers who are committed to reaching children in spite of limitations—that they would clearly proclaim God's Word and that children would have attentive ears, minds, and hearts.
  • that parents would feel equipped and helped so that they will actively and joyfully disciple the children in their home.
  • that every child in our church would, by God’s sovereign grace, grow and mature into a man or woman wholly devoted to Jesus Christ.
RESOURCES
  • "The Prayers of this Generation Matter to the Next"—In this excerpt from Big, Bold, Biblical Prayers for the Next Generations, David Michael explains how God’s purposes for our children and our inescapable responsibility to raise them in the faith come together in prayer. 
    Free download
  • Big, Bold, Biblical Prayers for the Next Generations—This booklet encourages parents, grandparents, pastors, children's ministry leaders, teachers, and all who care about the next generation to intentionally pray for the children in their family, church, and around the world.

SCENARIOS FOR TEACHING FORMATS

As the new year begins, there is still no “one size fits all” regarding programming and resources for churches and homes. Some churches will be able to offer in-person classes, though many will be in a modified format. Some will have their teachers video lesson presentations for viewing in the home. Some churches will provide parents with resources to use at home. Some will use elements of each of these scenarios or come up with other creative solutions.

How can you best disciple children within the specific challenges and restrictions at your church? Find your scenario based on this decision tree and then see the recommendations for that scenario below.


Plan curriculum based on how classes are able to meet.

Some churches are planning toward resuming Sunday school and midweek programs as normal in age-appointed classes using curricula that follow the regular scope and sequence plan. However, many churches need to offer a hybrid model. Here is what a hybrid may look like:

  • One larger, intergenerational class with families sitting in socially distanced groupings.
  • Classes that combine more age groups to reduce staffing needs.
  • Using a curriculum that gives greater flexibility to respond to possible future changes.
  • Moving the normal Sunday morning teaching time to midweek classes.

If you are considering offering a hybrid model, Truth78 has resources to help you. Here are some recommendations:

Whether teaching in person as usual or using a hybrid model, if at all possible, make a video recording of the teaching session that can be sent to those who are not able to participate in class. Additionally, you can find more support for intergenerational teaching in this free training seminar: “Intergenerational Teaching: Why and How?

Provide video lessons and home support.

If at all possible, it is preferable to provide children with teaching in the new year that is age-appropriate and continues the scope and sequence in a seamless manner. This will help ensure that you present children with the breadth and depth of the whole counsel of God. What would this option entail?

  • Equipping and training teachers to present their lessons through video/digital means. (This can be done by teachers recording their lessons at home or by recording them at church.)
  • Providing parents with instruction and tips to help their children use and benefit from the teaching videos.
  • Providing students with the corresponding workbooks or notebooks in either print or digital form.
  • Providing parents with the corresponding lesson's parent pages in either print or digital form.
  • Regular contact with parents and/or students to encourage and pray with and for them.
    [Find more at "9 Tips for Teaching Lessons Remotely."]

If it is not feasible to do remote teaching for every grade level included in your regular scope and sequence, consider using one curriculum or resource to span the entire family. Here are some recommendations:

Partner with parents in teaching home-based material.

Some churches have determined that it is still not feasible to meet in person or provide remote teaching. But the church can and should do whatever possible to encourage and equip parents to diligently disciple their children at home. In this scenario, it’s important for the church to follow up with parents on a regular basis to see how it’s going and address any problems. Truth78 has a variety of resources designed for use in the home. Churches can recommend and even provide these resources for families.

  • Lord, Teach Us To Pray Family Kit—Intergenerational, 13 lessons
  • Glorious God, Glorious Gospel—Interactive devotional, 15 chapters with accompanying notebook for older children and coloring book for younger children.
  • The Making HIM Known series—Easy-to-use, 15-minute devotionals for elementary-aged children. (See this example of David Platt leading his family in a devotional from the book God's Names in the Making HIM Known series.) Each of the eight titles includes 26 chapters and has been based on a specific Truth78 curriculum. See how Making HIM Known books align with Truth78 curricula here
  • More Than a Story: Old Testament takes children (ages 6 to 12) on a chronological journey through the Bible with a God-centered, gospel-focused, discipleship-oriented, theologically grounded perspective.