Introducing the new PROOF Pirates!

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
— Ephesians 2:8-9

So much in our life tells us that it is our performance that makes us who we are. This is especially true in the lives of kids. Think about what they hear from chore charts, report cards, standardized tests, recitals, and athletic banquets. Performance—work and reward—is one of the basic structures of our lives. As a result, kids grow up thinking, “I am what I am because of what I do... or because of what I’ve failed to do.”Have you ever thought about how different this “message of performance” is from the Bible’s message of redemption? In 1 Corinthians 15:10, the Apostle Paul says, “I am what I am by the grace of God.”

I learned about God’s grace while sitting with my dad in his Dodge pick-up truck after school. I was in ninth grade, and I overwhelmed with things that seem silly now—schoolwork, acne, girls, and my scrawny physique. That day, my dad taught me a lesson that I pray I’ll never forget: “What God says about you is more important than what others say.” In other conversations after that, I learned about what has been called the doctrines of grace—the simple message that who we are as Christians is not determined by what we do or what we look like, but by what God has done for us. These doctrines changed my life. By God’s grace, I’ve learned to believe God’s promises for me are true. What God has determined for me through the work of His Son Jesus makes me who I am. I am loved even when my performance doesn’t stack up. After all, Jesus came to save sinners, not those who get everything right.

This Fall, the SojournKids creative team is releasing a new PROOF Pirates family devotional, music CD, and VBS curriculum. Maybe you've sailed through waters of God's grace with us before. Maybe this is your first opportunity. We put together that unit of study as a way of reclaiming the doctrines of grace for the next generation. Pick up one of the new resources below and sail with us on an adventure of grace.

PROOF Pirates: Finding the Treasure of God's Amazing Grace

PROOF Pirates by Lindsey Blair, Timothy Paul Jones, and Jonah Sage introduces kids to God's amazing grace through a fun-to-read pirate story about a boy named Jesse whose parents send him on a scavenger hunt. Along the way, children will learn with Jesse key truths about God's grace.

PROOF Pirates VBS and Bible Club Curriculum

PROOF Pirates VBS and Bible Club Curriculum by Jared Kennedy, Fletcher Lang,  Lindsey Blair, Mandy Groce, and Tessa Janes  introduces kids to God’s amazing grace through a five-day, pirate-themed curriculum for use in Bible clubs and Vacation Bible School. Whether using a treasure map to teach about God’s sovereign plan or a skeleton to explain how God makes dead people walk, PROOF Pirates helps kids remember the one message we never want them to forget.

6 Steps for Leading Change

UncategorizedJared Kennedy1 Comment

Several weeks ago I posted twice about how the recent release of new children’s ministry curriculums has sparked controversy in the children’s ministry community. In my posts, I suggested that major philosophical shifts are impacting the way ministry leaders think and talk about curriculum. It's not surprising that such major shifts have lead to conflict, because change is hard. But how can we lead through these changes with Christian wisdom and love? Here are a few thoughts on leading change (or leading through changes) with grace.

  1. Know what is worth fighting for... In other words, lead with the kind of vision that gives your people a clear direction. Sojourn's lead pastor, Daniel Montgomery, has defined vision this way: "Vision is a picture of what could be, matched with a conviction that it must be."  This kind of vision begins with revelation. God's word inspires our vision, and the Spirit convicts us that we must act upon God's word because it is necessary. Connecting kids with Jesus and the life he gives (John 5:39; Matthew 19:13-15) is the main thing for our ministry. And we believe that partnering with parents to capture the hearts of the next generation (Psalm 78:1-5) is an essential part of this mission.
  2. ...and know what's not worth fighting for. I love this Andy Stanley quote that I first heard from Jonathan Cliff: "We are married to the vision, but we just date the models.”  Knowing the difference between the vision and the different models that contextualize that vision is essential. Keeping Jesus first and partnering with families are both deal-breakers for me. I'll die for that vision. But we must be flexible when it comes to models. We use a chronological bible storying curriculum, but we're open to using a virtue-based curriculum so long as we see the virtues as God's grace gifts to us through Jesus. Attractional large group worship gatherings, small groups with games, a classical educational approach for preschoolers, a particular Bible memory program, etc. Those are all models. Don't marry them. Get married to Jesus and the families that he's called you to love.
  3. Know who your enemy is.  When we're passionate about a new ministry initiative (a new curriculum, new program, or just a new idea about how to make ministry better), it's easy to think that anyone who stands in the way of implementing that change is our enemy. If you haven't met opposition yet in ministry, know that it is coming. When you do, keep in mind that fellow staff members, the church board, the finance committee, and ruffled bloggers are not your enemies. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood,but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). Even if you feel like  someone is speaking against the gospel itself, remember that you were once an enemy of God. And while we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son (Romans 5:10). The way to win an "enemy" is to be like Jesus, a friend to his enemies.
  4. Lead with humility. As a Reformed guy, it's sad to me that our movement is known more for the doctrines of grace than for leading with grace. I saw Scotty Smith tweet recently: "The Calvinist's doctrine of grace is completely antithetical to leading with arrogance." He followed it up by saying: "Calvinism is a dangerous tool when employed by those who are arrogant in spite of the humility and grace the doctrine teaches." Paul said it more simply, "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Corinthians 8:1). This isn't just a problem for Calvinists. When we're leading change, there is a temptation for all of us to act or speak first before listening and considering.. The way of humility listens and asks questions before passing judgment on the church board's motives or  firing off a complaint letter (or worse e-mail). When we speak first before listening, we take a position of self-righteous superiority. Don't get me wrong. It is good to take pride in what the Lord has done in us--including the truth he has shown us--but we should never self-righteously compare ourselves to others (Galatians 6:10). After all, what do you have that you have not received?
  5. Pray. Paul follows up his instructions on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6 with a section on prayer. He says, "Be alert and always keep praying for the Lord's people" (6:18). My wife, Megan. recently wrote a great series of posts on lies that keep us from praying for our kids. Lie #6 is the lie of self-reliance. While we might not say it, deep down we often think “I don’t need to pray, because I can handle it.” When we do pray, often we are essentially praying, ”Lord, please bless my efforts.” Paul Miller writes, “If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life.” What are we saying we fail to pray about change? What are we saying when we fail to pray in the midst of conflict?  How much time do you spend interceding on behalf of your "enemies"? Have you prayed that they will come to a knowledge of the truth? Do you think that your efforts and arguments have a better chance of winning them over than the Spirit of God? Many of us are ready to stand in defense of our ideas or ready to pounce when someone else fails to "get it right." But do we give thanks to God and celebrate when we see evidence of change in our enemies--however small? If not, we are failing to trust that God is at work. And  we've forgotten that he doesn't really need us at all, but we desperately need him.
  6. Do the hard work of putting change into practice. If you've been convinced that your ministry needs to do more to partner with parents... or that Jesus and his grace needs to be more central in your teaching, stop talking about it and DO something. You might begin with a practical conversation with your lead pastor. You may just want to begin by making regular adjustments to the curriculum that you are already using. No curriculum is perfect, and "tweaking" usually doesn't require a board meeting. If you make the decision that you do need to change your curriculum, check out the process we went through a few years back.

Change is hard--particularly when your church is in the midst of wrestling with a major philosophical shift--but the results and the process can be rewarding when we approach changes with prayer and humility. I pray that these few thoughts help you to navigate whatever changes may be coming your way.

Kids Music Liturgy for January 2010

UncategorizedAdministrator2 Comments

Hey Sojourn Parents, As most of you probably know, twice a month your children get together with kids from other classes and take part in a mini-service modeled after the Big Church, with songs and liturgy and prayer and all. The idea is to introduce the kids to a typical Sojourn worship service so they're ready when they leave the Sojourn Kids program, and also to get them thinking about how good and glorious and beautiful and true God and His gospel are.

This month, the liturgy is centered on God's grace towards us in Jesus. We're singing five songs:  "For By Grace" (A setting of Ephesians 2:8-9 in NASB by Mark Altrogge), "Amazing Grace" (the traditional hymn), "You Show Me Kindness" (from Sovereign Grace's To Be Like Jesus cd), "Mighty Mighty Savior" (also from Sovereign Grace, Awesome God - Both of these cds are excellent resources if you don't have them), and "God's Love Goes On Forever" by our own Chandi Plummer.

I hope you're able to connect with your kids as a family around these songs and truths. We want you to know what the kids are doing so they can keep hearing about Jesus and God's grace in between Sojourn Kids services. I'm sure you'll be encouraged and moved too as you consider what God has done for us and talk about it with your kids.

Here's the actual liturgy we'll be using with the kids this month:

This morning's lesson is about God's Amazing Grace! What is God's grace? God's grace is kindness and favor that you and I don't deserve. Let's repeat that again together: God's grace is kindness and favor that you and I don't deserve. Our first song is a Bible memory verse. So we are going to memorize a Bible verse by singing it. Some of you may remember it. The "address" is Ephesians 2:8 and 9.

Let's say the verse together. Please repeat after me:

For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God not as a result of works that no one should boast Ephesians 2:8 and 9

This verse is saying that we can be saved from God's punishment by faith in Jesus. We cannot earn or work for God's forgiveness-- His forgiveness is a free gift to us when we trust in Him. And because it's a free gift-- we can't brag about it-- because we have done nothing to deserve it. Let's sing this verse together.

I. "Ephesians 2:8-9," words from NASB translation  © 1995 The Lockman Foundation. Music by Mark Altrogge on Hide the Word 1 © Forever Grateful Music.

Let's pretend that you have been very mean to your brother. And your Daddy comes to you and says, "Because you have been mean to your brother, you have to sit in time-out. Plus, you can't go to a Birthday party that has cake and presents for everybody." You would feel sad, but you would deserve the punishment that your Dad has given you. Then, your brother, the one you were mean to, comes and says, "Daddy, I'll sit in time-out and I'll miss the birthday party so that he/she can go." Now, your brother doesn't deserve the punishment, but he is showing you GRACE. Grace is kindness and favor that you don't deserve.

This story is not true. But Jesus is true. How much more amazing is God's grace in Jesus! We have sinned against God and we deserve to be punished. Perfect Jesus who never did any thing wrong took our punishment for all of our sins when He died on the cross. That's amazing grace! Let's sing to God about His amazing grace!

2. "Amazing Grace," words by John Newton, 1779. Music: NEW BRITAIN, in Virginia Harmony, by James P. Carrell and David S. Clayton, 1831.

Let's learn another new song about God's amazing grace, His undeserved kindness. This is a song called "You show me kindness."

3. "You Show Me Kindness," words and music by Peter Gagnon and Bob Kauflin ©2009 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI). Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Ministries. From To Be Like Jesus.

Jesus is a mighty, mighty Savior! He can save us from the punishment of our sins. Let's sing to our mighty Savior!

4. "Mighty Mighty Savior," words and music by Mark Altrogge. © Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI). Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Ministries. From Awesome God. We are going to pray. Fold your hands and be still and talk to God. Let's pray to God.

Jesus, your grace is amazing! You have not treated us as we deserve. You have not punished us like we should be punished. You took our consequences and punishment on the cross. Thank you! We want to believe in you and turn to you to forgive us for our sins. We want to love you more each day. Help us to forgive each other like you forgive us. Amen.

5. "God's love goes on forever," words and music by Chandi Plummer, © 2009 Chandi Plummer/Sojourn Music.