How To Choose A Children’s Bible

Children's Bible

Being a father of three children and a pastor, I take my children’s spiritual life seriously. After all, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” As important as it is to be a part of a church that has a good children’s program, I cannot fully rely on the church to cultivate my children’s spiritual life. It’s first and foremost my responsibility.

In fact, when you look at Joshua 1:8 and Deut 6:4-9, you discover the critical connection between Bible reading and a child’s spiritual life.

Joshua 1:8 – This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do

Deut 6:4-9 – Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So my hope, through this post, is to help you navigate through the plethora of children’s Bibles out there. Now obviously, this isn’t all there is, but I do believe that this is a good sampling.

When you look at the image above, I’ve plotted the Bibles according to their difficulty/maturity level and the level of engagement that my children displayed when I read it to them. As a father and a pastor, a good children’s Bible does not only have to be theologically accurate, but it also must convey the Scriptures in an engaging manner at the right maturity level.

So here are my reviews:

  • Baby’s First Bible: As a board book, the stories are simple and are intended for infants. It’s a quick read and introduces infants to the Bible stories. Since each story rhymes, I ended up creating songs for each story that my children still remember to this day.
  • The Story for Little Ones: The details in each Bible story are glossed over, since this Bible is for young children. It’s well illustrated though, and will keep your children under three years old engaged. There is also a one line summary of each Bible story at the end of each chapter.
  • The Story for Children: This is from the same brand line as The Story for Little Ones; it’s just intended for older children. Each Bible story goes into greater detail and the illustrations are quite mature and artistic.
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible: I’m not the biggest fan of the illustrations, but I do love how each chapter was written. Every chapter points towards Jesus and it has helped my children understand how Jesus is at the center of it all.
  • Jesus Calling Bible Storybook: This is similar to The Jesus Storybook Bible, in that every story points towards Jesus, but what I most enjoy about this one are the short devotionals after each chapter that help my children apply what they’ve just read.
  • The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook: This is the most comprehensive children’s Bible and the authors have done a good job with Bible accuracy, as well as summing up each story in a page. This, like a few of the other children’s Bibles, also points the reader to Jesus, but it takes it one step further. Not only is there a “Christ Connection” component to each chapter, but there’s also a summary “Big Picture Question and Answer,” that helps me ensure that my children understand the point of the chapter. The best part of this Bible is the augmented reality app where the characters pop out and the chapter is summarized via the app.
  • For Such a Time as This: What’s unique about this book is that it focuses on the stories of the women in the Bible, and it’s written for girls. The authors take quite a bit of creative license as they retell each Bible story, but I didn’t find any theological errors. What I’ve enjoyed most about this Bible is the fact that there’s a page at the end of each chapter that summarizes the lesson and presents it as a long-form prayer that I can directly pray over my daughters.
  • The Power Bible: This is, by far, the most engaging children’s Bible. Since it’s illustrated as a comic book, I’ve seen my children take it and read it by themselves. In addition, when I read it to my children, they just seem to be drawn into the Scriptures in a way that none of the other Bibles seem to do. The only down side is that you need to buy 10 volumes to get the entire Bible in this form.
  • The Big Picture Interactive Bible: This is the only full-length Bible that I’ve reviewed here. However, what I enjoy about it is that it is very similar to The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook, with notes that point children to understand the bigger Christ picture, as well as questions and answers that help them with their engagement and comprehension. And you also have the augmented reality app with this Bible as well!

I hope that helps and that you make it a priority to read the Scriptures with your children daily.

10 Reasons Systems Matter for Church Planting

Yasunari Nakamura - Flickr
Yasunari Nakamura – Flickr

There are no perfect models, and there is no silver bullet. Many models are useful though.

What’s fascinating is that two church planters can use the exact same model in the same city and get vastly varying results. Notice that I said the same model, but I didn’t mention anything about the systems that each church planter used. For example, let’s consider the Dodge Charger that police drive versus the Dodge Charger that you can drive off the lot. Although, at first glance, they both look like the same car, the performance between the two is like night and day. For police cars, not only do they upgrade the engine, but they also change out the battery, alternator, cooler, suspension, brakes, and many other components that make up the car. Essentially, the model or framework of the car is the same, but everything that makes up the car, which are its systems, are different.

I realize this isn’t a perfect example, but it illustrates the importance of systems, as the next step, in church planting. This is a natural next step for those of you who are highly detailed and systematic. However, what I’ve found is that many church planters are weak in this area. As a result, church planters will often think about their church planting model at a 30,000 foot level and work on many of the aspects needed to plant successfully, instead of working in those aspects. If all the work is done on the plant, instead of in the plant, then planters will not have any control over the systems that are shaping it; and that will ultimately determine the fate of their church plant. For example, working on the plant is all about thinking through the location, name, logo, and vision statement. Working in the plant is about thinking through financial sustainability, church structure, launch team, and the intricacies of congregational formation, and long-term discipleship.

I’m not advocating that you take care of every single detail yourself, but I am advocating that you involve yourself at every step of the process. If God has called you to plant a church, he has called you to be the steward of this vision. Don’t neglect your responsibilities and don’t delegate the details.

What would happen if you were stubborn and decided to leave systems to chance?

[Read more…]

New Churches: Multiply the Mission

new-churches-logo

Currently, a significant trend in the U.S., Canada, and around the world is a renewed emphasis on starting new churches. More than 4,000 new churches are launched in the U.S. each year alone, each one representing the potential to reach new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, new churches commonly struggle with limited resources, a lack of trained volunteers and few tools to support their work. Even more, these limitations can often be the most detrimental to churches in their very first years.

But LifeWay and the initiative that I’m leading through New Churches is committed to help.

For churches in their first two years of operation, LifeWay has a variety of free offerings to help get a few of the foundational aspects of ministry in place. This includes helps for:

  • Bible Study Groups (6 months of digital curriculum for all age groups)
  • Church Website: twenty:28 (Free website design and 1 year of hosting)
  • Leadership Development (1 year access to Ministry Grid, LifeWay’s new web-based training platform)
  • LifeWay eGiving $0 month + 2.75% + .30 per transaction. Plus, no set-up fee for text giving
  • LifeWay Envelope Service– 600 free offering envelopes
  • Plus, $500 in free printed LifeWay resources of the church’s choosing

To qualify to receive the free offers above, simply complete the form here at New Churches.

 

Book Review: Saturate by Jeff Vanderstelt

Saturate book cover*My post here was originally published on June 15, 2015 in Christianity Today.

When I first stepped into my role as a small-group pastor, I was at a loss as to how to help my church get on mission. I knew what it meant to be missional and intentional with my relationships. I knew how to share my faith. I even knew how to motivate my leaders to get on mission with God. However, the one thing that I didn’t know was how to make mission normal in our church—I didn’t know how to help the congregation get on mission with God in everyday life.

As a result, much like Jeff Vanderstelt explains in Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life, I loaded my leaders and groups with a task list of missional activities. There was only one problem: I was teaching and expecting my congregation to be Jesus—when only Jesus can truly be Jesus. As a result, I was expecting my group leaders to do more than Jesus every asked of them. In reality, as Vanderstelt puts it, “we are not meant to carry the weight of the world or the mission of Jesus on our shoulders. Jesus came to seek and save. He doesn’t expect us to become the saviors.”

So when I first encountered Vanderstelt’s ministry, Soma, I was impressed with the way they were able to normalize mission and make it easy for their church members to get on mission with God in everyday life. That’s what led me on my journey to digest everything I could get my hands on from Vanderstelt and Soma—articles, seminars, audio files, and the like. But now you can simply read Saturate, a book with all of their wisdom in one place.

As I was preparing to develop a discipleship pathway for my multi-site church, I was inspired by the ministry philosophy, identities, and rhythms of Soma because they have the clearest missional paradigm of discipleship. Soma’s focus, and subsequently, the focus of Saturate, is to provide a vision for complete and utter Jesus saturation rooted in who you are in Christ, rather than in what you do. [Read more…]

3 Ways Introverts Can Become Level 5 Leaders

Susan cain quote

In an earlier post, I shared one of my most vulnerable, if not, the single greatest self-revealing moment of my life – it had to do with cream puffs, moms, and a caffeine addiction.

Without divulging that story again (since you can read it here), I wanted to revisit, in this post, why I acted the way that I did…

It’s because I was an introvert.

I remember studying all about this in my Psychology of Religion class – to be honest, it brings back both fond and confusing memories of reading Freud and Jung. But it wasn’t until I read Susan Cain’s Quiet, that I began to truly appreciate the spectrum of introversion-extroversion and why it mattered.

Cain explains the importance of this scale…

Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality—the “north and south of temperament,” as one scientist puts it—is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Our place on this continuum influences our choice of friends and mates, and how we make conversation, resolve differences, and show love. It affects the careers we choose and whether or not we succeed at them. It governs how likely we are to exercise, commit adultery, function well without sleep, learn from our mistakes, place big bets in the stock market, delay gratification, be a good leader, and ask “what if.” It’s reflected in our brain pathways, neurotransmitters, and remote corners of our nervous systems. Today introversion and extroversion are two of the most exhaustively researched subjects in personality psychology, arousing the curiosity of hundreds of scientists. (Location 220)

So what are the differences between introverts and extroverts?

At a very general level, Cain describes the difference well…

Introverts…

  • Are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling
  • Focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them
  • Recharge their batteries by being alone

Extroverts…

  • Are drawn to the external life of people and activities
  • Plunge into the events themselves
  • Need to recharge their batteries when they don’t socialize enough

“To be great is to be bold.”

This is a huge myth in our society and it’s called the Extrovert Ideal in Susan Cain’s Quiet, “The omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.”

We see the way that this myth has been perpetrated in our society…

  • By the way that the home coming king and queen are the most popular and gregarious ones
  • By the way that political elections seem to be won on charisma
  • By the way that the main characters in our TV shows and movies seem to be comfortable in the spotlight – anyone remember Zack from Saved by the Bell? Jerry from Seinfeld? Or how about Phil from Modern Family?

Now I’m not saying that Jerry, Phil, or Zack are the ideal representatives of greatness (not that there’s anything wrong with them), but the fact is, you don’t need to be an extrovert to be a great leader! Jim Collins reputed this notion with his Level 5 Leader research in Good to Great.

According to Collins, Level 5 leaders are individuals in whom genuine personal humility blends with intense professional will. In other words, Collins discovered that bold, loud and gregarious personalities were not indicative characteristics for successful leadership.

After all, according to Cain, “some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions—from the theory of evolution to van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer—came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.”

So, as an introvert, here are three things that I’ve been incredibly intentional with, in my pursuit to become a Level 5 leader:

[Read more…]