Should I Care that My Kid Can't Spell?

Allie Townsend recently pointed to a study by the English Spelling Society that the Web has not only wholly altered the English language, but has turned us into a culture of misspellers. "The increasing use of variant spellings on the internet has been brought about by people typing at speed in chat rooms and on social networking sites where the general attitude is that there isn't a need to correct typo's or conform to spelling rules," the paper says, meaning our attitude toward grammar has become increasingly lenient. If correct grammar continues on a path to irrelevancy, Townsend argues, children won't bother to correct themselves, let alone learn it in the first place. If you're a parent and your child struggles with spelling, should you care?  John Piper says yes as he tenderly speaks from personal experience.

When Should I Talk to My Kids About Sex?

CCEF faculty member Julie Lowe answers the age-old question "when should I talk to my kids about sex?"  Her advice: "talk often, talk freely, and talk soon."  I agree.  Along with the Bible, we've also read a couple books to our girls from the God's Design for Sex Series by Stan and Brenna Jones. We only have the first two in the series (written for children ages 3-5 and 5-8) but we've found them to be fairly helpful.  For older children (10-14), I recommend using the Passport2Purity materials from FamilyLife.  At my church we adapt this curriculum and make it into a special weekend for parents and kids that we trust will be a catalyst for further conversations in the home.

Bad Parenting or Autism?

This is a must-read article for church leaders (especially those who work with children and families). Instead of casting judgment on parents, we must "consider the possibility that an undisclosed or undiscovered disability may be driving problematic behavior.” I also recommend this follow-up article entitled, "A Parent's Greatest Fear," where the author ends with this exhortation:

There may be parents who are trying their best visiting the church with kids who have bad genes, kids who experienced trauma or abuse, or kids who haven’t yet developed the skills to effectively self-regulate their emotions and behavior.  How do we welcome them and share with them the unconditional love Christ has for them? How do we as the church best communicate so we build the relationships necessary to cast influence in their family?

(HT: Jared Kennedy)

Almost Christian

Almost ChristianHere's a brief description of Kenda Creasy Dean's provocative book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church: In Soul Searching, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton found that American teenagers have embraced a “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”–a hodgepodge of banal, self-serving, feel-good beliefs that bears little resemblance to traditional Christianity. But far from faulting teens, Dean places the blame for this theological watering down squarely on the churches themselves. Instead of proclaiming a God who calls believers to lives of love, service and sacrifice, churches offer instead a bargain religion, easy to use, easy to forget, offering little and demanding less. But what is to be done?

In order to produce ardent young Christians, Dean argues, churches must rediscover their sense of mission and model an understanding of being Christian as not something you do for yourself, but something that calls you to share God’s love, in word and deed, with others. Dean found that the most committed young Christians shared four important traits: they could tell a personal and powerful story about God; they belonged to a significant faith community; they exhibited a sense of vocation; and they possessed a profound sense of hope. Based on these findings, Dean proposes an approach to Christian education that places the idea of mission at its core and offers a wealth of concrete suggestions for inspiring teens to live more authentically engaged Christian lives. (Taken from Dean's website)

  • Buy the book here
  • Read CNN's take on it here

Teachers, Be Encouraged!

Jen Berglund

Ten years ago I taught 6th graders at Grace Christian School in Deephaven, Minnesota.  I loved it.  Pouring my life into young people was (and still is) a passion of mine.  After all those years, I recently heard from one of my former students.  It was so encouraging to hear about what God is doing in her life and how she remembers 6th grade as the year she started making a habit of reading the Bible on her own.  She is now a junior at Bethel University in Minnesota with a burden to share her faith in Christ.  I was so blessed to read this article and to be a small part of the story God is writing in her life.

So, if you're a teacher, be encouraged.  You're making a difference.  Many times you won't get to see the fruit of your labor, but God is at work!  BTW ... if you're a former 6th grade student of mine, I'd love to hear from you!

Helping Students Transition Into College

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The transition from high school to college is a difficult one for many students.  This is where the church can step in and play an important role in supporting and praying for these college-bound kids.  Walt Mueller, with Center for Parent Youth Understanding (CPYU) tells about the College Transition Initiative, a program to discover how you can learn more about helping these students in transition.  I posted the following articles on their website for further reading.

CPYU Articles

Mindy Meier: Sex on campus - Derek Melleby interviews author Minday Meier about Donna Freitas' bookSex & the Soul

Finding campus community - What can be done to help students make wise decisions in how they spend their time and who they spend their time with in college

Preparing high school students for the realities of college life - The CCO interviews Derek Melleby

Youth group gone wild - What you can do now to prepare kids for college

Life after high school - CPYU interview with author and professor Dr. Tim Clydesdale about his book The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens After High School

Why students abandon their faith - Lessons from William Wilberforce

God in the gap year - More and more students are taking a year off before heading to college

The beginnings of vocation - Deciding on a major. Download this article as a .pdf handout.

Choosing a college - Questions students should ask as they seek a college that will positively nurture the entirety of their being, by Matthew J. Reitnour

Life after high school: A conversation with ministry veteran Steven Garber - How youth ministries can help students with the transition from high school to college

Affirming doubt - Helping students ask and answer tough questions

Keeping faith from fraying - The American Family Association interviews CPYU's Derek Melleby about the transition to college

College prep - Helping the teens you know transition to the university years

College Transition - A look at the transition from high school to college through the eyes of a high school guidance counselor and two college students

Navigating the college transition - CPYU's own Derek Melleby, along with Susan den Herder, wrote this article for Comment Magazine

The lion, the witch and the college campus - Key issues students face when transitioning from high school to college and the relevancy of C.S. Lewis for college students

Conversations for the college bound - What high school students heading to college should think about before making the transition

Prepare for college: Read the Bible - Students who desire to transition smoothly from high school to college should read and understand the Bible

How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

switch-dan-chip-heath[1]Switch looks like an intriguing book by the same authors as Made to Stick. In it they make 3 assertions about how to change things when change is hard. • What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction.

• What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. So it's critical that you engage people's emotional side.

• What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.  So shape the situation and you make change more likely.

Here's a great example of this last idea by a 3rd grade teacher in Michigan.

If you're interested, here's my thoughts on making your teaching stick somewhat inspired by the Heath brothers' first book, Made to Stick.

God-Centered Spelling?

This little anecdote by John Piper is a powerful reminder to make God supreme in all your child's learning no matter if you homeschool or send your kids to a Christian school or public school.

I remember the day when my non-academic, dyslexic son said to me, "Why should I care about spelling the way everybody else spells?" I countered, "Well, you won't be able to communicate as well if you don't learn how to spell the way everybody else spells." "I don't care about communicating well,” he replied. “Why should I care about communicating well?"

The blasphemous, standard, 20th century answer to this question is, "If you don't learn how to spell and communicate, you won't succeed in business and make as much money.  And above all, you won't have a high self-esteem."  What a Godless answer.

Here's another answer; the one I gave my son. "Ben, you should care about communicating and learning how to spell because you were created in the image of God. And God's a great communicator. You should want to communicate because you’ve got something infinitely important to communicate. You’ve got God to communicate. You’ve got salvation to communicate. You’ve got Jesus to communicate. You can't be indifferent, Ben, to communication. God is love, and we scorn his love when we are indifferent about communicating good news to our neighbors, when they desperately need to hear these things. You need to care about communicating because language was God's idea from the beginning. `In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God.' It was God's idea. He is not a God of chaos and confusion. He's a God of beauty and order. He's not a God of anarchy, even spelling anarchy.”

  • Read the entire sermon by Piper entitled, "The Supremacy of God in Preaching"
  • Listen to the interview with Preaching Today on this same topic
  • Buy his classic work with the same title

8 Ways to Help Children Love Different People

John Piper, from his message on Racial Harmony: 1. Help the children believe in God’s sovereign wisdom and goodness in creating them with the body that they have.

2. Help the children believe in God’s sovereign wisdom and goodness in making other people with the body that they have.

3. Help the children believe that they and all other children and adults are made in God’s image.

4. Teach the children that God tells us to do to others as we would like others to do to us.

5. Teach the children and model for them that their own sin is uglier than anybody they think is physically unattractive.

6. Teach the children that God loves them in spite of the ugliness of their sin and that he proved this by sending his Son to die for our sins and give forgiveness to all who would trust him.

7. Teach the children that because Jesus died for them and rose again, he becomes for them an all-satisfying Friend and Treasure.

8. Teach the children to love others who are different from them, not in order to be accepted by God, but because they already are accepted by God because of Jesus.

(Read, Listen, or Watch the whole sermon here)

Becoming a Better Teacher

Are you looking for tips to become a better teacher?  Whether you teach in a church or school (or even at home), the following is a collection of posts that I think will be helpful to you.  These teaching tips below come from an online book discussion that I conducted a couple years ago over the book, Teaching to Change Lives, by Howard Hendricks.  I trust they will challenge you to become a better teacher and life-long learner. Law of the Teacher 

Law of Education  

Law of Activity     

Law of Communication 

Law of the Heart 

Law of the Encouragement

Law of Readiness

The Case for Life to 2nd Graders

Scott Klusendorf, author of The Case for Life, writes about his experience in helping a class of 2nd graders understand the value of life for those who are yet to be born.  The kids helped him learn a few things as well:

Admittedly, I was having a blast with these kids. At the same time, they were teaching me an important lesson. The pro-life movement must find ways to reach kids earlier, before the surrounding culture talks them out of what they already know to be true. In many ways, these youngsters had better moral reasoning skills than many college students I meet!

(HT: Z)

Driscoll on Why Dads Must Do Their Homework

Mark Driscoll with some wise, balanced counsel on a father's role in the education of his children:

A father needs to think through the education of his children and have a theology of childhood education. The first question a father must resolve is, what is the purpose of an education? Paul tells us that the goal is that the child would become mature "in the Lord," and Proverbs teaches that the goal of all instruction must be a redeemed heart that fears the Lord. The second question is, which educational option will help cultivate my child in the Lord? Since each child is different, there are multiple answers to this question, and the father, in conjunction with the mother, is best suited to make the decision between home schooling, public schooling, private schooling, and Christian schooling. As the father, you will also need to determine how you will make enough money to educate your children.

As a father, you must recognize that if your child will be sitting in a classroom for six or eight hours a day, for twelve years, you must know the teachers, their curriculum, and the goal of that education, because you are responsible before God for the cultivation of your child. Children need to learn math, English, history, and the like, but these subjects must be connected to the Lord and must help children see how they are connected to the Lord. Wise fathers know that just because a school has "Christian" in the name does not guarantee that Jesus rules in the curriculum. Fathers must do their homework before sending their children to school to do their own. Idealistic fathers tend to be legalistic fathers and the truth is there is no single decision that is right for every child every year. Therefore, the educational options need to be reconsidered every year for every child, depending upon the various circumstances that the parents are dealing with.

~ Taken from Chapter 3 of Pastor Dad (an online e-book) by Mark Driscoll

I especially appreciate the last line about parents evaluating the various educational options for their children each year.  This is what Jaime and I have done and will continue to do with every one of our children.

What's missing in our teaching?

True teaching aims at life change.  I can teach an amazing lesson complete with powerpoint and handouts, but if my students haven't changed, then have I really taught? Knowing full well that life change is impossible without God's intervention, there are still some things that we as teachers must do.  I call it the M.I.A. (Missing in Action) as these 3 elements are often missing in our teaching:

  • Modeling -- (ME) It starts with me.  The more I change, the more I can influence others to change.  I must become what I want my students to become.  Not a perfect example, but an authentic one.
  • Involvement -- (WE) I must get my class involved in the learning process.  I must learn the art of asking good questions and become more of a leader than a lecturer.  Too much of our teaching is entirely too passive.
  • Accountability -- (YOU & ME) When I'm done with my lesson, I'm not done.  I must create an intentional plan of action to be done outside the classroom.  Oftentimes, teachers feel the pressure to "get through the lesson" and leave out this important step.  But good teachers follow up with their students to see if they did what they were asked to do in an environment of humility and grace.

If you're aiming at life change, look for ways you can build these three elements into your teaching, all the while depending on the Holy Spirit to do what you cannot do.

State of the Church 2009

panel1state-lp1 Is your church ready to jump in to the New Year?  A recent study by Group Publishing aims to help Christian leaders get the information they need to impact their ministries in 2009.

Some of the study's finding include:

Check out the website for more information here.

My First Book Set from Westminster

This looks like a great deal! I've got the My First Book of Questions and Answers and I like to use it as a game after we eat dinner to quiz my girls on questions like, "What is sin?" and What is the 5th commandment?"  They really enjoy it! My First Book 5 Book Set Carine Mackenzie & Philip Ross

List: $14.95... WTS $9.72 (buy it here)

Endorsed by John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, Douglas Kelly, and C. J. Mahaney

In this set:

  • My First Book of Bible Prayers Sample Pages (PDF)
  • My First Book of Questions and Answers Sample Pages (PDF)
  • My First Book of Christian Values Sample Pages (PDF)
  • My First Book of Memory Verses Sample Pages (PDF)
  • My First Book of Bible Promises Sample Pages (PDF)
  • Should we take time for prayer requests in Sunday School?

    The Sunday School Revolutionary offers the positives of taking prayer requests in Sunday School as well as some helpful suggestions to avoid taking too much time: Positives

    • Class members feel like someone cares for them
    • Class leadership has the opportunity to serve through prayer
    • Praying for each other builds community


    • Take requests at the end of class
    • Take written, not verbal, requests
    • Send requests out by e-mail

    What do you think?  Do you have any other suggestions?