Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Applause (Lesson #2) : Worship

I've been wanting to talk about worship (what it is, how we do it, why we do it, etc.), but didn't have a firm grasp on the lesson. Then Katie sent me a link to an article by Todd Agnew about worship. It's a pretty good article, and the kids know who he is and like his music, so I thought it would be a good starting point for the lesson. Here's the basis:

What is worship?
OT: shachah (shaw-khaw')
A primitive root; to depress, i.e. Prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God)
bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.
NT: proskuneo (pros-koo-neh'-o): to fawn or crouch to, i.e. to prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore) -- worship.
from pros: motion towards, accession to, or nearness at
and kuon (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand)

So it is falling down before someone or something, either literally or figuratively. An act of showing humility--that you acknowledge that you are "beneath" that someone or something.

Why do we worship God?
God commands it.
Why does he command it? Does he need it? Is it to make him feel powerful?
No, it is to remind ourselves of our place, to humble ourselves before the Creator of all things.

How do we worship God?
I got much of this from Todd Agnew's article (see above), so I give him credit for the use of these particular references.
Romans 12:1 We give our bodies to God
John 14:15 : We obey God's commands
Matthew 9:13 and Hosea 6:6 We show mercy to others
Matthew 25:40 We show love and kindness to others (do for them)

Why do we confuse worship with singing hymns and praise songs?
Worship can be done anywhere in many different ways. It has nothing to do with singing except that singing is one possible way to worship God.
(Just as we can worship without singing, we can sing about God without a worshipful heart.)
In Isiaiah 55:8-9, we read that God's ways are higher than our ways.
In Ecclesiastes 11:5, we are reminded that there is no way for us to understand the works of God.
As Agnew states, "I think music is the only language we have that can express things beyond the capability of our vocabulary." Music can elevate my thoughts an emotions to a place that can express love and gratitude to God in a way that my words often cannot.
I also think that the corporate act of singing unites people. We can be singing the same words and feeling the same feelings at the same moment. In John 17, Jesus expresses his desire for our unity. So far, we have failed at that on most fronts, but when everyone in the congregation is singing Amazing Grace, we can, just for a moment, feel the possibility of that unity.

What gets in the way of true worship?
Embarrassment (a.k.a. Pride), especially for preteens and teens.

How can we truly worship God during corporate worship?
First and foremost, remember who God is and why we are worshiping Him.
Other ideas:
Picture yourself bowing down before the throne of God.
Imagine God during the creation.
Imagine Jesus descending from heaven.
Imagine yourself alone in a room with Him.
Focus on the words, not the people around you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Link to Evergreen

Today I found a reference (on Think Christian) to an article by the pastor of the Evergreen Community church in Portland, OR. I was intrigued by some of his thoughts, so I linked to his church's Web site. Sounds like a great church. As a Baptist, I'm sure that my church will never have events like their Theology Pub or Women and Wine, but it looks like a good place to fellowship and learn.
Anyway, I thought I would add their link here because it is interesting and because they have MP3 files of their music available for download. (Click on Worship, and then Music.) I listened to some of the songs and thought they might be nice for a worship service. So listen and enjoy, and use the songs if you see fit, just remember to give credit where credit is due. (Be sure to read the Creative Commons License information linked at the bottom of the lyrics pages.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Applause (Lesson #1)

Last year, we tried something new at our church, but because of time restraints, we had to set it aside. Now, it looks like God has opened up a new door for it, so we're looking at starting it up again. It is a creative arts class for our Undergrounders (preteens), called Applause. The basic idea is that each month, or six-week period, or whatever is needed, a church member who has a strength or talent will come teach the kids for a short 20-to-30-minute class. (I know that's not long enough, but it's what we've got.)

The thought behind it is this: God created us in his own image and since God is creative and uses his creativity regularly, we should do the same. The name, Applause, comes from the idea that we should be giving our talents as applause (or worship) to God instead of seeking applause for ourselves. One reason that Becky, a Crossgate church member, had the idea originally is that these kids are going to be worship leaders, pastors, teachers, etc., in 10-15 years, so let's teach them now that worship doesn't have to look a certain way. God doesn't expect worship to come packaged neatly in a 10-minute singing session before preaching once a week. He is more creative than that. I can worship through a poem, a novel, a blog post; some people worship through drama, song, dance, even something as technical as manning the sound board during service can be an act of worship. We need to show that to these kids now before they get locked into some box that is their idea of what God is and what worshiping God is.

This is my brainstorming session on our first month's topic: God's creativity.

God made man in his own image. And he saw that it was good. What does it mean that we were made in God's image? (Kids answer, probably not in their own words: we have three parts, we have free will, we have the potential for some of the same traits as God: mercy, love, jealousy, etc.—yes, we have some really insightful kids.)

After God created man, what happened? (Garden of Eden, fruit, sin...)

After sin entered the world and man, do we still have the image of God in us? (yes)

I don't feel very Godly most of the time, with all that sin covering up God's image. But God's image is still there, underneath all that sin, isn't it? That's pretty amazing. I was made in God's image and so God's image is still inside me somewhere, even when I'm sinning. But I'm covering up the beauty of God with sin.

Someone tell me what you know about heaven. (Pearly gates, streets of gold, no sin, perfection...)
Sounds nice. But if God made such a perfect, beautiful place and then let people covered in sin come there, would it be beautiful anymore? No. That beautiful place would turn into earth, basically, wouldn't it? So heaven wouldn't be very heavenly anymore, would it? So what would be the point of heaven? But God provided a way to wash that sin off so we could go to heaven. What was that? (Christ's death on the cross, salvation)

Right. So when I was saved at the age of seven, all that sin went away, right? And now I'm perfect, so all is well. But wait, that's not right. Just today, I got really angry and yelled at someone for cutting me off in traffic, and I was envious that my friend was shopping for new clothes and I can't afford any right now, and I wasn't very respectful to the lady at the store who couldn't seem to figure out how to make change, and...sin, lots and lots of sin. But when I was saved, what did happen? (God forgave my sin, and Christ came into my heart.) What does that mean, Christ came into my heart? (Lead them to understand that the Holy Spirit came into my spirit to lead me. Gal. 4:4-6, Romans 8:14-16)

So God is part of me in two ways: God made me in his image, and then when I was saved, the Holy Spirit entered my spirit, awakening that essence of God that was already there. So how do I improve and build upon that spirit of God that is inside me? (prayer, reading the Bible, going to church, etc.) Exactly. If I learn who God is through Bible study and prayer—learn his qualities, his essence, his personality—then I can spend my time trying to make those parts of me stronger and better, right?

In Applause, we are going to study one aspect of God in particular, his creativity. This is not necessarily the most important aspect of God, but it is one that is often overlooked. And I think every aspect of God must be important, don't you? Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments and the countless Old Testament rules with these two: “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind...and your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). I spend a lot of time on Sunday mornings talking about loving others, and showing the world God's love. And that is very important. But we need to also put every bit of us—our hearts, souls, and minds—into loving and worshiping God, every day. That comes first. And I think that takes creativity.

Now we're going to see some evidence of God's creativity in the world around us. (Show them a video clip from the Planet Earth series that highlights that—something similar to the National Geographic article "Hawaii's Unearthly Worms"; or just show them the pictures from the NG article.)

God's creativity is everywhere around us. When I'm really struggling with a problem, and I need to remember that God's got it all under control, I like to go outside for a walk and surround myself with his creation. It helps me remember his awesome power, but it also reminds me that God doesn't always do things the way I would do them if I were him. If I could have created the world, I probably would have created one kind of worm, or maybe two, or maybe I wouldn't have had the foresight to create those slimy, dirty things in the first place. Or maybe I would have made them less slimy and a little prettier, but then they wouldn't have been as effective at what they do. God is so much more creative than I could ever be, so whatever is going on in my life, maybe God knows a better way to deal with it than my little brain can handle.

Before next week, I want you to to take a walk outside. While you are walking, I want you to pray silently that God will help you see him. Just something as simple as that, “God, please help me see you on this walk.” Then look around you and really see God's creation. It doesn't matter if you live in the country or in town, you can see creation everywhere. In fact, the image of a flower forcing it's way through a crack in cement says a lot about God to me. Next week be prepared to tell me about something you saw and how God could speak to you through it.

Freedom #2

Underground Curriculum on Freedom.

Week 2: The track

If you take a train of any kind and place it on the open road, what happens? Nothing. A train needs a track in order to progress. The train's freedom to do what it is supposed to do comes from the track. Without it, the train is just a heap of metal.

Our track is God's plan. Daily, we have to choose to follow God's plan in our lives or to jump off the track and find our own way. Unlike the train, our lives will move either way. But there is freedom in being the person God created each of us to be.
A disobedient child may choose the freedom of jumping out of the tree house, but once his leg is broken, his freedom is lost. The obedient child will choose to climb down and will then be able to run to his next activity.

There is a definite disconnect between the world view and God's view here. And it is understandable. Religion seems stifling and binding, the world offers a freedom to choose whatever we want to do or be. But that is part of Satan's lies to us. Following God does not mean following some prescribed set of rules that are solely meant to make life miserable. Jesus gave us few commands: Love God and Love Others (Matt 22:36-40) and tell people about Him and teach them who He really is and what He really wants (Matt 28:18-20). The Old Testament is full of rules that God gave his people, and some of those rules are just good common sense. But they aren't rules that are meant to rule us: God is to rule us. The whole point of those rules was to point us to the fact that we can't do it without God (Gal 3:24). The Pharisees and Sadducees in the New Testament were constantly being blasted by Jesus because they made the rules their god instead of looking to the true God.

Gen. 3:1-24
Satan convinced Eve (and she convinced Adam) that disobeying God would lead to more freedom. He told her that if she ate the fruit she would become like God. She chose that false freedom over God's plan. And the consequences were severe. The most severe was simply that sin was introduced to humanity. Adam and Eve became aware of their sin and felt shame. They hid from God, something they had never felt compelled to do before, out of shame and fear. God took them out of the garden, the beautiful place God had made just for them, and they had to find their own way in the world. They had to provide their own food and protect themselves from the harsh reality of the world.

In the same way, when we choose the world's way instead of God's, we lose the beautiful life that God has planned for us, and we lose God's protection and provision in our lives.

Freedom #1

I help program for the preteen ministry at our church, The Underground. The name came, in part, because we were given a section of a storage room on the bottom floor. But our graphics focus on the Underground subway system. Our focus is on Freedom, and our verse is Gal. 5:13.
In August we are going to do a short study on freedom as a way to introduce our program to our new 5th graders, and this post is the formation of that study. If it rambles, that's why.

Week 1: The train (Free will).
The movement of a subway train represents each person's life. We are always going somewhere, never just wandering around. Even when it seems like we have no destination, everything we do, every choice we make, leads somewhere.
Gen. 2:4-25. God made Adam in God's own image and then placed Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was an ideal place, and life was wonderful. Even in paradise, there was work to do and there were choices to be made. Adam chose to be obedient because he loved God and because God had provided and had been all he had ever needed. God created Eve as a helpmate, and they were happy. They felt no shame because there was no sin or guilt.

Each of us is made in God's image. We have the ability and freedom to choose every day whom we will follow. When we stick to God's plan, God provides for us and protects us. That doesn't mean there won't be hardships (this is earth after all, not heaven), but God is with us every moment of every day. Our relationship with God is solely dependent on our own decisions: that doesn't mean that God punishes us for our mistakes by withholding himself, it means that he won't force himself on us if we don't seek him out. God forgives our mistakes, and he will do that daily, hourly, or more, if need be, but he will not take away our free will.

Free will. Everyone wants freedom, that's part of humanity. A child wants to escape from his mother's grasp and toddle off. (For a moment or two anyway.) Who would ever want to be forced to love or to obey someone else? There is joy in making a choice to love. Why didn't God just take away the choice and make it easy on us all? Because he wants to be loved, not simply obeyed. I can force my children to obey me by using a belt on their backsides, but nothing I do can force them to love me. I must build that by showing them love and by teaching them to trust me. That is free will. That is the basis of love. And God is the origin of love. It is impossible to truly love without freedom.

I'm looking for a movie clip to illustrate this point. Maybe something in "The Chronicles of Narnia". Week 2 will follow.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Good Links for Programming Ideas

I'm starting this blog as an outlet for preteen ministry ideas. I'm the programming team director for the Underground, the preteen ministry (5th & 6th graders) at our church. We're always looking for ideas, as well as a permanent, accessible storage place for our curriculum, so here it is. I'll be moving things here from my other blog as I have time, so that it will all be here as we need it.
To start off, I'm going to add some links to some of the sites I already use regularly.

The Source for Youth Ministry We use this regularly. There are great games and ideas for video clips. The only problem I've found is that a lot of it is just too mature for preteens. The video clips must be chosen very carefully because they are intended for older teens. But a fantastic resource I recommend highly.

Kids Sunday School Place There are some good lesson ideas here. Unfortunately, you have to pay to get most of them. If you want video clips, etc., I don't think they are suggested, but I don't know for certain, I've only used their free lessons for inspiration. I'm frugal; that's why I'm starting this free blog. :)

Fools 4 Christ This is a site all about Christian dramas. They are not specifically for preteens, but a good resource. They have their own free dramas, and they have links to many, many other sites that have dramas. The links aren't all free sites, and the list is hard to weed through, but if you have time, look around.

Christian Book Distributors
This is a good resource for books, videos, etc., at discount prices. I could spend hours in a book store, and the same can almost be said of online book stores, so this is a dangerous usurper of my time. But if you are looking for something specific, chances are you can get it here for less money.

Last year, we tried to write our own curriculum. It was a challenge, but I learned a lot. However, this year, we are buying one. It was just too much. One day I hope to take all the work we did last year and put it into a usable format, just so all that time won't have been for nothing. But for now, we have purchased Group Publishing's Grapple curriculum. Unlike most of the stuff we look at, it is designed for this age group, and it takes their interests to heart. Part of the curriculum is access to a closed, online community. The kids can get on the site during the week and keep in touch with each other, learn more about next week's lesson, play games, etc. We are just getting started, so I can't speak with authority yet. But I'll keep this updated with our thoughts on the new curriculum. (If you are interested, you can download a sample from