Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Paul's Letters for children: Philippians 1

Paul's letters for children ... an interesting concept to play with.

Acts was written by Luke. Acts, like Luke, is full of stories. The Epistles are letters - letters written from a man of God to groups of people trying to walk right with God - not just as individuals but as communities. The Law in the Old Testament was written to a community of people trying to walk right with God. Jesus came into the community of God's people (and into the world) showing us how to walk right with God.

So...Paul's letters for children - a challenging concept - letters written to communities including children about walking right with God. People watched Jesus do it somehow grounded in the Law that God gave his people centuries before and rooted in the person of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

When I was working on including kids in worship I saw my task as translation. How do we translate this (whatever was happening in worship) into something meaningful to children as individuals and as a group? Sitting in leadership meetings my primary role, as I saw it, was to process our discussions and ideas for adults and ask, how do we make that meaningful for children? How do we create layers so the story, the activity, the song, the message all have meaning and how do we accomodate different ages?

That's the task. I'm not a student of Greek or Hebrew but let's take a passage and play with it.

Phillippians 1:1-11 is a prayer and a blessing. When you're alone praying for your classes read it out loud to the Lord and imagine your class being the recipients of that blessing. Read it to an older class in person, if you want. Remember some of the posts from TCITB and those inclusive phrases like "all" - meaning this doesn't just apply to grown-ups, it applies to everyone?

1:12-30 Paul is consumed by his love for Christ and the Gospel even though he suffers for it. He sees this suffering as something that is advancing the Gospel. He is consumed by His love for Christ. He is suffering but people are praying for him.

Imagine you are a Sunday school teacher writing this letter to your Sunday school class. Imagine growing up children who will become adult believers like Paul.

Whatever happens, Christ being preached in such a way that Paul is not ashamed before God or man is important. Paul wanted the time he spent with the Philippians to bring them not only great progress but great joy in Christ. Joy was important. Unity (being one) was important. Not being afraid was important.

Take a month or a season and focus on ways you can help the kids in your classes discover joy, or unity, or the ability to love Jesus and His Good News without fear or shame. Pick one. How do you bring joy to the children in your life? How can you help kids process times of suffering and find joy? How do I love Jesus and His Word without being afraid or ashamed? What are you afraid of? What are you ashamed of? When we disagree, what can we agree on?

I'll keep going but at this point, how we live these things before children is somewhere at the heart of children learning the things that Paul writes about in his letters and I'm not just talking cognitive but multi-dimensional whole person learning. As Paul was to the churches, we are living letters to one another, to the world, to children. Our hope is that as children grow they will become living letters too. We will spend a lifetime sifting our thoughts, attitudes and behavior through Paul's letters to see what passes and what doesn't. And we'll keep making adjustments no matter how old or how young we are.

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