Resource, Activity or Game

This free, printable resource from ReFrame Media includes daily and weekly faith focused activities that your family can do together not only to count down the days until Christmas, but also to prepare your hearts for the greatest of gifts, Jesus Christ.

November 16, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

It takes a village—the whole congregation—to nurture the faith of its young people. Here are ten ways to connect with young people and children. 

November 14, 2017 1 0 comments
Resource, Prayer

I was organizing my basement recently and came across the following prayer that has meant so much to me in my spiritual journey. Perhaps it will encourage those who are wondering about the road ahead. 

November 12, 2017 2 6 comments
Resource

I’m always searching for faith-nurturing ideas that busy families can actually do. This week I found two of them. Got rocks or blocks? Then you’re ready to roll!

November 9, 2017 1 0 comments
Blog

I recently attended a conference hosted by the Association of Youth Ministry Educators in Dallas, TX, and I'm excited to share with you about a model for ministry called, "Youth Ministry in Thirds." 

November 9, 2017 2 0 comments
Blog

We have nine Bible storybooks in our house, one for every year we’ve been parents. But recently we added something new to the mix, a big book on family worship. And we're pretty excited about it! 

November 7, 2017 1 2 comments
Resource, Lesson or Study

The Big Question is a new four-session study that explores how the catechism’s Q&A 1 can shape our faith. 

November 7, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

About a year ago, as Venezuela was beginning to deteriorate into violent chaos, I prayed for God to expand my borders. A short time later, he brought refugees Alejandro and Sandra into my life. 

November 3, 2017 3 1 comments
Blog

All of the struggles of these past six months seemed so small; the pain of leaving a church, the incessant theological pushback. None of these things really mattered in comparison with knowing him.

November 2, 2017 1 0 comments
Resource, Activity or Game

Rather than adding another program or creating a new ministry team, here’s one idea for enhancing one event most church members already enjoy: add a storytelling activity to your next planned potluck.

November 2, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

The APCE conference offers more than 70 workshops focused on youth, leadership, worship, hospitality, social justice, and more. Ignore the name. Attend the conference. You’ll be glad you did. 

November 1, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

“Ten Ways to Be a Caring Deacon” offers ten tips to help deacons care for others, as well as themselves, as they live out their calling and serve their congregation and community.

October 31, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

If we fail to intentionally include and accommodate people, the church suffers just as much as the person excluded. Here are a few tips to help you think about working together in God’s growing kingdom. 

October 26, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

If you are feeling a pull to explore ordained pastoral ministry, these ten steps will help you discern whether that is the path God is calling you to take.

October 25, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

This one-page resource from Faith Formation Ministries introduces the Building Blocks and shares ten tips for using them to transform your congregation.

October 25, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Spiritual growth can’t be programmed, but great resources are important. As someone who is part of an intergenerational small group, I wanted to share some of my favorite resources! 

October 25, 2017 0 2 comments
Resource, Article

My Reformed roots have blessed me, and continue to bless me, in too many ways to count. I’ll name just three.

October 23, 2017 4 1 comments
Blog

Arnie talked for a minute more, his curious energy bringing the Old Testament to life. As he sat down, I wanted to hug him. I wanted to say thank you for making a middle schooler interested in the book of Malachi. 

October 23, 2017 2 6 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

This fall we’re celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I can’t think of a better Sunday take home gift for everyone in your congregation than a copy of Ten Ways My Reformed Identity Shapes My Faith.

October 19, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

Online cultural magazine, Think Christian, recently put out a new ebook, the “Pop Culture Primer,” that aims to help Christians consider what they watch, listen to, read, and play through the lens of their faith in Christ.

October 16, 2017 1 2 comments
Blog

We often end our youth group year by inviting the teens to write down questions they’re struggling with. This past spring I was shocked by the composite question that topped the list.

October 15, 2017 3 3 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

Nothing reaches kids like a well-told story with eyeball-grabbing art. If it’s time for a refresh of your personal or church library, check out these beautiful faith-forming books.

October 10, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Join us for a unique evening of learning and worship as we explore the harmony between modern science and biblical faith.

October 2, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Lesson or Study

“What is your only comfort in life and in death?” A new course called The Big Question dives deep into Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1 in four easy-to-lead sessions.

September 21, 2017 0 2 comments
Blog

I see a church community as a place to experience the contagiousness of courage. Surrounded by fellow hikers on the path, we hear and see people cheering us on while we in turn do the same for others.

September 20, 2017 0 0 comments

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Paula, thanks!  I love the thought of "sharing this!"  May many be blessed.  Appreciate you!!!

Love this Denise!  I promise to share it well!  And as much as they blessed you, I'm sure you were a blessing to them as well!  Paula

Hi Kris,

Thanks for making this your prayer and posting to let me know.  May it be a blessing to you beyond what you can imagine. 

Thanks for sharing this Denise. It is a wonderful prayer to make my own.   

Thanks Staci!

Denise, thank you so much for sharing. I am deeply touched by this story and the prayer. A must keep! 

You can purchase Teach Us to Pray and see a sample at https://calvin.edu/directory/publications/teach-us-to-pray

 

I love this - thank you, Rebecca! I have wonderful memories of family worship with my grandchildren. In addition to the Bible story and singing (don't forget to sing together!), we always read a Psalm. Bob & Laura Keeley authored a very good Psalm devotional called "Psalms for Families: Devotions for All Ages". (https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/psalms-for-familie...). I encourage grandparents also to take advantage of the precious time with their grandchildren and worship together in your home.

Syd, I'm really moved by this. What an example of a mustard seed of faith entrusted to a good God who wants to "expand our borders" beyond what we can imagine! 

That's a great memory Staci-thanks for sharing it. Arnie would have been touched by your writing. He was such a genuine human being and you captured that well. 

I love this story!  Thank you for sharing it, Staci.

You're exactly right, Linda! It's truly amazing how God uses little moments of faithfulness to impact others in ways we may never know. 

Thanks, Karen! I am so very grateful for my relationships with all ages in the church. 

Great question, Sarah. Some of the ideas I shared are free (the Story Prompts, the list of questions from the Storytelling Toolkit and the Faith5 devotional method) and most of them could be adapted for free.  Instead of purchasing images you could find a number of photos online, share them with your group and invite them to tell which one they would select (using the questions I provided or others that you have in mind) and why they chose it.  Or, invite each person to bring a photo (or another object) which represents for them an answer to one of the questions (provided in advance.)  For the Story Stones activity you can download the Story Prompts for free and then fill a bowl with stones found outdoors or from the dollar store. If you like, you could use permanent marker to draw a symbol on each stone or you could leave them blank and simply invite people to choose a stone and hold it while telling their story using the Story Prompt questions. (It's amazing how helpful it is just to have something to hold!) The Faith5 method is all free online and you could always make your own version of the bookmark if you wanted to keep a simple reminder of that practice with you. Hope that helps!

I wish there were ideas that didn't involve 'purchase' of additional resources/materials. This can be difficult for groups with a small budget.

Any 'homemade' ideas?

It is also a beautiful example of the impact our words can have on someone else.  I doubt Arnie ever thought of the impact his words made, if he remembered sharing at all.  Just a reminder if God whispers to us to share we should listen.  It can change someone's life.

 

Thanks for this article Syd.  Amen!

I have a question after reading the article. I am supposed to be embarrassed because more 'Christians' are not criticizing Trump?

Since Obama, I have been doing the opposite. There are many scriptures admonishing us to do the exact opposite. We are told to pray for them. Unless we talk to them first, we have no business criticizing them. Where are the scriptures telling us to call out our leaders flaws?

The article talks exclusively about criticizing Trump's flaws (without even mentioning one). I read a lot of these 'Christians' writers writing articles like this. I actually do not read many, if any talking about what Trump HAS done.

My take on the struggle youth are having is there is so much negativity in the U.S. they wonder why they do not hear the same from the Christian community. They shouldn't.

Are these students also embarrassed with Bible studies in the White House, making an executive order saying life begins at conception, getting us out of America killing Paris Accord, exempting Christian organizations from having to pay for abortions, asking for prayer for areas hit with catastrophies, actually giving of his own money to help in disaster relief, actually going down and physically helping in these same areas, encouraging our military instead of gutting it, or surrounding himself with advisors who are Christian? Does he talk to them about vice president Pence who is open about his faith and loyalty to his wife? Or do they even know about these?

I guess I wonder why we always look to criticize? Does not I Corinthians 13 say that a mark of a believer is to always look for the good? Even to the point of ignoring it when something is done wrong? 

Is Trump perfect? No. Do I believe he is a believer? None of my business. Is it my job to pray for him? Yes.

Bottom line is that my take on the article is that he missed a great opportunity to teach these youth how to live as a believer in a darker and darker world.

Maybe the best place to start is to challenge the 'embarrassment' question in the first place. Have the youth look up scriptures on authority and how we are supposed to react to it, even if it is bad" How did David react when the king tried to kill him?

A start is Romans 13, I Peter 2 and I Thessalonians 5. There are MANY more.

Maybe I can explain it best by explaining what happened when a volleyball player (I am a coach) asked about the transgender issue. The first question I asked in response was. Why did you ask the question? Was it so you could condemn? That is not our job. Or justify? That is not our job. Or because it is an issue you face with a friend?

The answer to a friend is to not answer but to let them come to their own conclusion. Then I gave her several verses about the clay complaining to the Potter because it did not like the way it was made.

But, here is the real question. I ask if they do the same thing. Do they not like their body, or something about it? When they do that, then they are telling God they do not like the way He made them.

Homework for them was to write down what they APPRECIATED about the way God made them, find a verse about it and put it on their mirror. One actually is putting them one her cell phone so she sees them all the time. Some of her classmates are now doing the same thing.

So by turning this around to get the to look inside, several lives were affected in a positive way.

When asked these kinds of questions, is it not better to get them to look inside themselves and find a way to make them better believers rather than wallow in the mud of criticizing? How would that help them in their walk?

How would I have answered the question? 

Write down what 'criticisms' you have of Trump. Let's use one many agree on. He says things he should not say. OK, find scripture verses that deal with what comes out of our mouths:

"from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

"let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth."

"encourage one another, even more as you see the day approaching."

" Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

There are many more. Homework assignment. Write some of these verses in a place where you see them all the time. How many of these verses do YOU violate every day?

Now read Matthew where Jesus says not to judge because in the very thing you judge, you will be judged. You criticize (judge) Trump on words that come out of his mouth. You will be judged on the words that come out of your mouth.

Just in doing the above, you have several great opportunities for Bible studies.

As to many of the responses noting how they 'feel' scripture is clear that we are not to live by our feelings but by the word of God. Jesus said it best in Matthew 6 and John 14, 15 and 16. Do not just say you believe DO WHAT I (Jesus) COMMAND....and the greatest command is to love. How much love is in critisizing?

What a beautiful example of how one generation can call to the next. Thanks so much for sharing it, Staci! 

We're so glad it's helpful, Fran! You can share the link to this article with folks, and if they'd like paper copies of the Ten Ways tool you can order them from FaithAliveResources.org.

I'm a new pastoral elder and new to your website. This article has been helpful. Will share at our next meeting. 

I can relate to their embarrassment.  When I read an article in which the son of Liberty University's founder said that Trump was their dream president, I decided I would not refer to myself as an evangelical Christian anymore because people like him were giving the word a bad name.  I am not the only one to feel this way either.

I am a 42 year old father of three and I can fully understand how these teens feel.  Many of their comments mirror my own thoughts and concerns.  I have been bewildered and dismayed by some of the words, actions, and inaction of many in Christian leadership.  However, I am heartened by your story of young people who are struggling.  It is encouraging that they are concerned about current events and that they recognize the disconnect between their beliefs and the actions of leaders.  These young people are demonstrating discernment and that is a beautiful thing.  We need to encourage young people to live out their beliefs, as the Spirit leads them, and not fall in the trap of following the crowd.  Even if that crowd is being led by persons with great authority.

Hi Doug, We're sorry to hear that Think Christian might not be as useful to your adult Sunday school class moving forward. And we agree that it is good to "think Christianly" about all of culture. However, since refocusing we've had an enthusiastic response from Christians who do engage regularly with popular culture (some even by way of the movie club at their CRC church!). These folks have been excited to find a denomination that does this in faithful, discerning community. So we're looking forward to the opportunity our focus offers us, both to be a place of discipleship when it comes to pop culture, and to bring a Reformed voice into some of the most vibrant cultural conversations taking place today. Hopefully we'll still be of use to your class from time to time! Josh Larsen (TC editor)

I've noticed Think Christian's recent shift to almost exclusively cover only pop media (e.g., popular singers, rappers, movies, videogames, etc), as if pop media equals the world.

I for one have been quite disappointed.  Certainly, pop media is part of the world but after this shift, Think Christian gives the impression that pop media is all there is to "think Christianly" about.  Indeed, while my adult SS class is called "Think Christian," and while I used to (for the last couple of years") use TC articles as class material, I no longer do, cuz I can't.  My SS class members (of a broad range of ages, occupations, etc) just aren't all that interested in an exclusive diet of pop artists, songs, videogames and movies.

It's very different, Shaun. The Big Question incorporates faith formation practices into the study. You can view a sample of The Big Question here--look for the red "view sample" button. 

How different is this new material from the previous QWA (Questions Worth Asking)? Anyone know? 

My garden the the vegetables grown only by what God has provided. The St Lawrence River with it's power and beauty and it's clear waters, the Black River in the Adirondacks and how it truly appears black. The sun on my body, the raindrops on my head, the cooling wind on a hot day blowing my hair. The majesty  and awe of the Rocky Mountains, the coldness and wind whipping crazily and the warmth of the lake below that I wade in and pull a leach off my grandson and gaze at the beauty of the wildflowers. It has been a busy blessed summer and God has allowed me to see much of his magnificent creation!

We were out on the boat yesterday, hosting two young couples that didn't know each other... and as the day progressed, one couple asked the other, "have you found a community to worship with?"  I could only thank God for the direction and heart of the conversation!  Only HE knew how much that question meant...but I'm praying that it leads to more conversation!  A day on the water, enjoy fun behind a boat, meeting new people -- is ALL part of God's plan as well!  #heleadswefollow

Sounds like you have a great system worked out, Keith! This Ten Ways tool was intended to help people think about how they can incorporate people of all abilities (including immigrants, refugees, people with disabilities, and others) into their small group ministry. If your groups are doing that, we'd love to hear how it's going!

The 'success' of a small group ministry rests with the content. Small groups have a tendency to become social gatherings rather than spiritual formation gatherings.  Our small group spends the first hour discussing the past Sunday's message, using questions provided by the church office.  The second hour is much more significant; men and women separate, meet in separate rooms, and become accountable for their personal lives over the past week. They share -- frankly and openly -- about their struggles over the past week as they dealt with sin, temptation, the amount of time they spend in devotions, their relationships (spouses, parents, children).  And throughout the week, they connect to each other by email or phone to see how they're doing.

This is spiritual development. It's accountability, something that few small groups seem equipped to do; nor do they desire to become that vulnerable.

Your "Ten Ways.." are a given. They are the ground rules.  It's what happens during that weekly discussion time that shapes one's faith journey, and that ends up strengthening the entire congregation's faith journey.

For me it would have to be kayaking in Deep Cove, Vancouver BC on the ocean. The beautiful scenery, the sun shining off the water, the salt on my lips, the wonder of being able to move my body and the friendship of others all made for a beautiful afternoon.

 

Chris, thanks for your comments and insight!

Thanks for reading, Angela!

Thank you for drawing attention to the mundane moments, Drew. I've often heard self-control (in the fruit of the Spirit passage) described as being able to resist temptation, which is certainly true. But I wonder if we're missing out on the real substance of self-control when we only talk about it as restraint - or not doing something. Your post depicts a more engaged view of self-control, with an emphasis on what we commit ourselves to doing, not just what we avoid. I think what you are describing lends to a more active and deliberate, rather than a passive and reactive, discipleship.   

Antifa does not plan to kill anyone as far as I know.  

I will Get working on that. Thanks for the recommendation!

I would love a discussion guide for the documentary Accidental Courtesy.  I was brought up in another network post I believe.  I watched it and really appreciated it.

Thanks for your question. We don't have any other guides available yet, but we are working on developing them. Let us know if you have suggestions to pass along!

I heard Trevor Noah's interview on Fresh Air. It was good. I haven't read the book yet, but now I will. Your questions look great and I plan to return to discuss. Thanks!

The main stream media says Trump equated the two sides.  He did not.  He said there was blame to go around.  Yes there were some espousing hatred, racism and Nazi Symbols.  But some on that side were also there about the issues of keeping the confederate symbols as part of history. On the other side were people standing for equality and peace.  But that side also included Antifa and others just looking for a fight.  Calvinists and every parents knows that rarely is there a purely evil and totally righteous side in a fight. 

Sorry Sid but I'm not a fan of too much of this post.  Certainly, we should be agents of reconciliation, but the political conclusions in this post are a bit merely politically fashionable.

This post clearly, even if a bit vaguely (another CRC trait beside having "gentle grace"), promotes grace for all except the "bad guys" of course.  At best, they get a "just say no," and the president (without speaking his name of course) gets an unambiguous "put your thumbs down everyone."  We can do better than that.  A lot better.

Which is the approach taken by Daryl Davis, as described in the documentary, "Accidental Courtesy."  It would seem that Davis, a black musician, has been doing reconciliation work -- including with KKKers and white supremacists/separatists, for years now, and with the kind of "sturdy, gentle grace" that is suggested by this article to be the perhaps exclusive possession of CRCers.  And Davis has been doing this all while doing it was neither cool nor politically current.

Davis understands, quite correctly I believe, that fear and ignorance predominantly underlie the postures of KKKers and white separatists/supremacists.  Davis exhibits "gentle grace" there, not a simplistic "just say no" posture, and it does indeed make for results.  

This article, and most if not all CRCNA agent articles on this same hot political topic, give no hint that the CRCNA understands what Davis does.

Perhaps there should be a GR showing of "Accidental Courtesy."  Knowing there would never be (too different from the preferred GR political narrative, which frankly is less "gentle grace filled"), I'll recommend watching it on Netflix, now showing.

Thank you for your prophetic voice and willingness to share.

Beautifully written Syd. Thank you!

I agree that Christians must make efforts to be accurately informed, and that we must also respond with both grace and truth. Donald Trump, in calling out evil on many sides, equated the two sides; and that's exactly the problem. One side espoused hatred, and racism, glorifying Nazi symbols. The other side stood for equality for all people. These two sides are not the same. We must, as Christians, stand on the side of justice for all people, and not on the side of hatred and bigotry.

How do we respond?  Grace and truth always goes together.  If one listens only to the mainstream media, then one could say that President Trump had a shameful failure to call evil for what it is.  But a key problem is the mainstream media has become shamefully unreliable.  By his own words, President Trump called out evil on all sides.  Christians must be informed accurately before we respond in grace and truth.

What other discussion guide to you have?  You mentioned film discussion guides.  Do you have any film discussion guides available?

This is great, Ruth! Can't wait to hear how it goes in your Together group this fall!

This article clearly articulates what it is like attempting to live "in Christ."  I am pleased at finding the material, and wish to share it with my people.

Thank you for your help! 

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