Saturday, July 21, 2012


Being a Young Disciple of Jesus is presented as a goal and the goal is restated, almost every week, to the 5th graders that I teach on Sundays.

What am I actually expecting?   The list written below describes what I am trying to accomplish with my 5th grade students, over this next year.

Most people who set tangible goals know that the idea of goal-setting is to have goals that are meaningful, written, as specific as possible, and attainable.   The goals should motivate you or me, the goal setter, to work to achieve them, following action steps related to the goals.    My action step is primarily to carry out my teaching ministry on Sundays, which also includes prayer and encouragement for the kids, both inside and outside the classroom.

It is absolutely vital that the parents be involved in this, building on my one-hour-per-week of teaching.    All of the parents in this year’s class have been mailed a copy of the 5th Grade Learning Objectives.  Parents should realize that their input into their children’s spiritual development is essential; telling them to “go to church” isn’t enough to meet our objectives.

Rochester Christian Church, Il
Helping children be young disciples of Jesus involves the following: 
- Increasing a student’s knowledge of God and the Christian story a student’s willingness to internalize or “own” their faith; we present this to the kids as “choosing to live their lives ‘On the Right Path’” (it is developmentally appropriate to give 5th graders this freedom to choose, while still teaching them to make the right choice – “I Serve Jesus”)  
- Teaching a set of beliefs by which students interact with their world and make sense of things (developing a “Biblical Christian worldview”) starting the process of acceptance into and participation with their faith other words:
- Starting to get them outside the “bubble” of kids’ programming in the church
- Connecting with ‘big people’ 
- Serving others through service projects (participating in the Impact discipleship group) the work of God’s Spirit, which may be mysterious, both to kids and to parents. But in spite of its newness to them, we still plant and water the seed, namely that they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can be filled with the Holy Spirit, and that they have been and will continue to be imparted by the Spirit with special gifts. Sometimes the gifts are only understandable through hindsight or reflection. 

I have said this several times, and wrote about it often – that in 5th grade, we teach the children that Christianity is “a Way of life.” Young disciples of Jesus need to learn the more-Christ-like way of living.   This is a process that must ultimately be internally motivated, not dictated by a parent, teacher or youth worker (but we are important, as mentors!).   The result is not just Christian behavior.   It is following Christ out of their deepest, most thought-out convictions.    This does take time.  But we start the process in 5th grade, by building on the nurturing in the faith from the student’s earlier years.  The key element is not the knowledge we present to the kids, as much as it is to develop their internal motivation.

One hazard to avoid is to attempt to reduce discipleship down to a simplistic monitoring of the children’s behavior. As a teacher, I try to build a relationship, make and maintain a connection with the children.  Parents already have the relationship, but should really strive to build their connection with their children. When you are connected, you are in a position to influence, not just to lecture. The saying is true that “rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”   When parents keep-up a strong relational connection with their kids, they won’t have to lose their influence and surrender to the peer group or the Disney/MTV-driven social pressures their pre-teens will experience.

To see the 5th Grade Learning Objectives - click HERE .
George Nielsen is an ordained Christian minister, ordained in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. He is a graduate of Lincoln Christian Seminary at Lincoln Christian University, with an M.A in Ministry majoring in Urban Missions.  George's teaching ministry in the Church is in the Children's Christian Education ministry at Rochester Christian Church.  As a writer, he has been concentrating on writing curriculum for teaching children and youth. George also writes teaching essays for adults, directed primarily toward parents, that are related to the curriculum he write for children.  At this time, he is also considering writing devotional books.
(Credit: Google Images)

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