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online 'serif'; font-size: 12pt;">My husband’s family lived for some time as poor share croppers. Wayne knew what it was like to drag a gunny sack, tied to his waist, through the fields picking cotton. In spite of long hours hoeing and planting and hoeing some more, Wayne’s dad couldn’t adequately provide for his family. Wayne’s parents were committed believers and knew God would help him find a better job. He found a job in the city and moved his family to take care of them. After spending ten hours over a blistering hot mold recapping tires with hot rubber, he came home to tend his garden. His garden provided vegetables for his family. He planted tomatoes, squash, okra, peas, beans and sugar cane. I love sugar cane. And, even though I was an adult, he would peel the cane for me. As I chewed on those stalks, the liquid sugar would drip from my fingers and onto my clothes.
His garden was more than food; it was his passion. Every time we went to visit he’d always say, “Let me show you my garden.” A weed didn’t stand a chance in his garden. As soon as it wiggled out of the rich soil, he chopped its head off. He knew how to garden! His plants were vibrantly healthy and loaded with blooms and then wonderful produce. He meticulously picked every pea and every bean off the vine. Wayne’s mother canned and blanched every piece of produce, putting it away for the winter.
And delicious, I can’t begin to describe how delicious the food always was. Steaming bowls filled to the brim with peas or beans, sometimes with a pod or two of okra, sliced fresh tomatoes, hot cornbread, fried okra and sweet squash in casseroles and breads. Oh, could Wayne’s mother cook! He also grew cucumbers, peppers and onions. Then he grew turnips and collards in the fall. Pear and fig trees kept sweet treats on the table for breakfast and supper. Oh, and the corn, fresh from the garden into the skillet for cream style corn or corn on the cob. The corn, or maybe the fried okra, was always my favorite. Then there was the…I could go on all day.
Wayne’s daddy gathered his own seed and planted the next year’s crop from the seed he gathered. Bags and jars lined the shelves, neatly organized and labeled. He tried new varieties, but he had his favorites. Wayne’s daddy knew good seed was important, but he wasn’t sentimental about the seed. He didn’t hoard them as a collection. He didn’t throw them in a drawer and forget them. He was interested in the seed because he wanted a harvest. He wanted to enjoy seeing the garden grow, produce a harvest and then enjoy that harvest. Nothing gave him greater joy than seeing the vines heavy with beans or having to prop up the tomato vines because they were drooping with shiny ripening tomatoes. He planted the seeds, hoed the weeds and prayed for the harvest. In times of drought he watered, not because he needed one more thing to do, but because he wanted a harvest.
A few times he planted something new and never planted it again, because he didn’t like it. He only planted what he wanted to eat. Space, time and valuable money would be wasted if no one would eat what he grew. Every square inch was strategically planted to optimize space and sunlight so he would enjoy a bountiful harvest.
Whether you are planting a garden or planting eternal seed in the life of a child, the principles are the same. What are you growing in the lives of the children in your class? Let me change the question. What seed are you planting? How would your children’s ministry change if you observed the same principles in planting God’s Word in children’s hearts as my father-in-law used in planting his garden?
Will you prayerfully consider the following questions?
- What do you want to grow?
- How are you going to plant it?
- What does this seed need in order to be nourished so it will grow properly?
- What ongoing process must take place to cultivate the seed in the hearts of children?
You are not a seed collector or a seed peddler, marketing your talents to the highest bidder. You are even more than a seed planter. Your assignment may be farming, planting God’s Word in the soil of tender children, but your calling is to the harvest. Jesus is Lord of the Harvest. What a beautiful thought. Jesus was willing to endure the cross, but His eyes were on the harvest, not the pain.
Children aren’t jars to be filled; they are plants to nourish and cultivate.
Your job is not to fill them with endless facts and information. They need facts, abortion but your focus must go beyond facts to the reality of the need for an energizing relationship with Jesus Christ in their lives. We can’t evaluate our success by how much they know and how much they can recite back. That is a measuring tape, website like this but I don’t believe it is an accurate measurement of a harvest.
There's life in the seed. Life to reproduce itself, check but it must be planted and cultivated to produce a harvest.
I’m not interested in having shelves filled with labeled seeds or chairs with seed containers. We must discover how to plant God’s Word (seed) in the hearts of children, and then nurture that seed until it comes up.
Pray over the children.
- Ask God to prepare their hearts. Prayer is really important. Please don’t skip over this suggestion. It’s vital! Vital I say! And that’s not just the spiritual thing to do either! Ask God to drive the truth home by giving them His understanding and revelation by His Spirit.
What do you want to grow?
- Be specific: Faith, Love, Kindness. People that pray. People that worship.Communicate clearly.
- Be sure they understand the principle.
- Be concise. Be sure if fits where they are spiritually, emotionally and developmentally. Can you boil the focus of the service into one brief sentence that they can parrot back to you?
- Train them to take notes, even if that means drawing a picture of what you are saying.
- Make it fun. You can even make it brief, but review. Next week introduce the lesson by reviewing the lesson from the previous week. Consider spending adequate time on one subject to be sure they get it!! Have them parrot the focus back to you frequently during the service so you know they are listening. Be sure they understand the concept, not just the words.
- Encourage them to tell someone what they learned.
- Give them opportunity to respond to God in prayer.
- Partner with parents.
- Use Facebook and your church website. Let the parents know what you’re doing. Give the parents fun devotions that emphasis the truth you are teaching.