To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care...
1 Peter 5:1-2a (NIV)
The shepherding metaphor is used throughout the Bible to refer to the Lord and his people (cf. Psalm 23, Isaiah 53:6, Ezekiel 34, John 10:1‑16). The religious leaders of Israel were condemned by the Lord because they failed to take care of his flock, the people of Israel. In contrast Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, the ones who have gone astray – the imagery is vivid and it’s brilliant!
It’s always worth exploring the richness of Biblical metaphor in order to understand some of the further implications and application. When shepherds have responsibility for a flock, they have responsibility for the entire flock – not just the adult sheep, but also every lamb. One might argue that it would be prudent for a shepherd to pay special attention to the lambs because the young are not only vulnerable and easy prey for predators, but they will determine the quality of the flock in the future.
He will therefore ensure that each lamb is safely delivered, accepted and nursed by its mother and not left behind or allowed to go astray. It should be clear to any shepherd that failure to care for the lambs may result in there being no flock at all in the future!
Sadly, as we train in various countries, the constant refrain from those doing children’s ministry is that there is very little, if any, support from the pulpit for what they are doing or for what parents ought to be doing to bring up their children in the fear and knowledge of the Lord.
Without proper support from the senior leadership of a local church it will always be hard to conduct effective ministry and recruit volunteers, especially men, to this vital role.
We recently published a four-part series on the book of Psalms in our Mustard Seeds range for 3-11s. It can either be used as a complete series or broken up to fill in the occasional gap in any regular teaching programme. The series includes Psalms 1, 19, 23 and 51.
We’ve also finished writing a four-part series on the life of Saul and a six-part series on David. Saul was released in the last week of November and we’re waiting for artwork to complete the David series. Full details and sample lessons for Psalms and Saul can be found here: www.mustard-seeds.net.
Since our last newsletter we’ve had a good season of training with every Saturday utilised and some extra days in between.
Christ Church, Bromley have caught the vision of providing regular, structured training for their people and have also opened the events to other local churches. We ran the first of our current series of four training days and are booked to return twice per year until March 2019.
Another church that has been doing this is Christ Church, Westbourne where we’re already halfway through the cycle for the second time having recently made our sixth consecutive annual visit there. It was heart-warming for Rory to chat with some people there who have come to all six events. Their confidence in handling God’s word and the deliberate way in which they think about and conduct their ministry is very encouraging.
Our second training day in Belarus was also fruitful and a number of people from the first trip attended the day. Some very good questions were asked which showed that people are thinking theologically about ministry. We also managed to firm up plans to have all our resources fully translated into Russian. A lot of the actual translation has already been done, but we have now set aside time to typeset and get the translations checked for theological accuracy.
After Belarus it was off to Rwanda for a full week of training and various meetings. Rory spent three full days providing further training for those who have already attended three previous events.
They were mostly people heading up the children’s ministry in their local churches. Topics covered included Partnering Parents, Recruiting Volunteers and Leading from Below which explores how to sell a vision for expository children’s ministry when the senior leadership aren’t really on board – theologically or otherwise!
Rory also met with the pastors in Kamonyi on the Friday and attended the kids’ club there on the Saturday morning before returning to Kigali to run a very well-attended parenting seminar.
Kamonyi Kids' Club.
The kids’ club in Kamonyi has been using the Mark material from our Mustard Seeds range and it was time for the review lesson that Saturday. It was thrilling to see the enthusiasm with which the children jumped up and clicked their fingers while shouting “Teacher! Teacher!” in order to be chosen to summarise the story represented by each of the pictures. Despite the language barrier it was clear from their animated retelling of each story that they really love the Bible and have retained a vast amount of what they have been taught this year.
All the clubs in Rwanda benefit from access to free resources via our Partnership Programme which currently supports 92 leaders and over 1,000 children in Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Argentina and South Africa.
To sponsor churches and clubs like these and to train one African children’s worker per year, simply make a one-off donation of £60 here.
Other training days included our third day in Swindon and our first days on the Isle of Wight and in Castlebar (Western Ireland). In total this year we have run 41 training events in seven countries and trained 1,449 adults to teach the Bible to children more faithfully, more creatively and more effectively.
Of course, none of this is possible without your generous, faithful and prayerful support – thank you for an incredible year! Wishing you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas and a Christ-filled 2018.
Rory, Kim, Laura and Brenda
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Items for Prayer
- Give thanks for a very fruitful year of training and for the opportunity to equip 1,449 adults to teach the Bible to children. Give thanks for churches who have embraced the idea of regular ongoing training for their leaders. Give thanks for senior leaders who actively support and encourage children’s ministry workers and teams. Pray that children’s workers who do not enjoy this level of support would persevere.
- Give thanks for the tremendous work going on in Rwanda and especially for Duff and Philemon and the kids’ clubs that they run. Pray that they would be able to train many more people to teach the Bible to children. Give thanks for the real thirst for God’s word amongst the children who attend the clubs and pray and for the Partnership Programme which makes delivering quality content to the leaders possible.
- Give thanks for the training in Belarus and for the work that has already been done to translate our Mustard Seeds resources into Russian. Pray that more churches would begin using the resources and that training day plans for 2018 would come together.
- Give thanks for the TnT board and staff. Pray that the annual strategy day at the end of January would be productive and that we would be able to plot a clear Christ-centred course for 2018.
- Pray for safety for the Bell family travelling to South Africa in December to visit family and also for our fundraising efforts in South Africa to sustain the work there.