Thank you for your heart to minister to children. There is value in what you are doing with the children entrusted to you. You are touching their lives for eternity with your ministry.
As a person who works with children, you are aware of the scriptures about training children. The scripture commands parents to train their children at home, as they travel, and as they rest. Parents authorize you to help train and teach their children by sending their children to your ministry. It is a daunting task but vitally important as the culture of today tries to train children in ungodliness. The children you teach could have an impact on ministries around the world as they pray and seek to help further the Gospel.
My hope is that each devotional will encourage and inspire you in ways to train children. Your impact on the next generation will have eternal consequences.
Day 1 Devotional: Choosing Faith Over Fear
A missionary couple was visiting Advancing Native Missions on the day of our weekly staff Bible study—nothing unusual about that. There are frequent visitors on Thursdays who come to share about their ministry and what God is doing in their lives. Parents of three small children, this young couple seemed loving, humble, kind, and eager to tell others about Jesus. Their gentle spirit and the joy on their faces impressed me. It is normal for the visiting missionaries to display peace amid the turmoil and persecution they face. They face a dangerous future with great faith, joy, and trust in God.
Meeting brothers and sisters in the Lord and hearing how difficult life is for them is always humbling and challenging. The husband shared first and spoke of how the persecution of Christians by Muslims in the Middle East was intensifying. Then the wife quietly and calmly addressed us. All I remember of her message that day is one particular statement she had told her children: “If ever there are men who break into our home and you see guns, knives, and blood, just close your eyes, and when you open them, you will be with Jesus.”
Her wisdom, faith, and the peace with which she prepared her children for the possibility of martyrdom amazed me. She did not communicate fear, just the assurance that they would be with Jesus. We at ANM believe we will be with Jesus one day if we know Him as Savior. But do we live without fear and with joy that if the worst happens and we are killed for our faith, we will be okay? Are we confident we can close our eyes, knowing the next face we see will be the One who loves us best and has died for us?
Her comments to her children pierced my heart, convicting me as I wondered if I trained the children I work with to have faith or fear. How could I change my teaching methods to increase their trust in Jesus? What faith-building lessons did I need to share with them? And what would I learn in the process?
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
– Isaiah 41:10, NIV
Please grant me the wisdom to train children to have faith, not fear, in every life situation. Enable me to do the same as I trust in Your Word and receive strength from You.
In Jesus’ name,
Day 2 Devotional: A Problem Turned to Blessing
As a teacher at a Christian school, I desired to train children, as the scriptures suggest.
In doing so, I saw God work in their lives in ways I had never experienced.
The classroom buzzed with the excitement of children eagerly anticipating the upcoming field trip to visit their former principal, Mrs. Beaver. The children still loved Mrs. Beaver even though she had resigned due to health issues. The other classes who visited her had shared what a great time they had at her house. The school secretary, Peggy, knocked on the door to tell me the school van had broken down. What seemed like a simple interruption had changed our plans. She suggested transporting the children in our cars, which would only work with permission slips and car seats, neither of which we had. I told Peggy, “We will pray about what to do. Could you please let Mrs. Beaver know we cannot come?”
The disappointed look on the students’ faces pushed me to fix the problem, but I felt helpless. I suggested that we pray and ask God to help us. They readily agreed, then returned to their classwork with slumped shoulders and sighs.
Another knock at the door changed everything. With a huge smile, Peggy relayed, “Mrs. Beaver is feeling well today and has offered to come to school to visit your class. Will that work?”
What a load of worry that question lifted from my shoulders. Of course, Mrs. Beaver was welcome to join us. The cheers from my students echoed down the hall. They got to spend time with their beloved Mrs. Beaver, and she even brought ice cream for them to enjoy. God had turned the problem into a blessing.
This experience taught me a new lesson. Instead of trying to protect my students from disappointment, I could encourage them to pray and trust God to answer. They did, and He did! No other class got a personal visit and ice cream from Mrs. Beaver. I also learned to trust God to solve problems instead of trying to fix them myself. My plans might seem reasonable, but God’s plan is always the best.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28, NIV
Remind me to call on You and to teach children to pray to You, too, instead of trying to fix a challenging situation on my own, Help us remember to seek Your kingdom and righteousness first as we trust You for Your intervention and the perfect solution.
In Jesus’ name,
Day 3 Devotional: Take Time to Listen
The school’s principal, Mrs. Beaver, encouraged me, “Instead of having your children pray during devotionals tomorrow, try having them listen to the Lord. I did it with the kindergarten class last year with great success.”
I was skeptical if six and seven-year-old children could hear from the Lord, but I decided to try it. Taking my students into the Chapel, I explained, “We will be listening to the Lord instead of asking the Lord for things in prayer today. You can spread out, sit, kneel, or lie down to be comfortable. Be sure to focus on listening to the Lord.”
The students wiggled and giggled at first as they found places to be alone with the Lord. Finally, a quiet peacefulness settled over the room. After a few moments of silence, I called them back together. I cautiously and with some curiosity asked, “Did you hear from the Lord? Do you want to share what you heard?”
With amazement and assurance on their faces, they said things like, “God said I should treat my sister better.” “I need to obey my Mom when she tells me to do my homework.” “God told me to quit lying.”
It was apparent God had spoken to them in specific and personal ways. I was encouraged and convicted not to limit God in the lives of these little ones. The verse, “Be still and know that I am God,” came to mind. I was thankful that we had heard from Him.
“The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’” – 1 Samuel 3:10, NIV
Help me to set aside time to listen to Your voice and to teach children to listen to You, too. May we hear You speak and obey You in every situation.
In Jesus’ name,
Day 4 Devotional: Teach Us to Pray
Once, I attended a Bible study as an adult and was shocked at the number of people who refused to pray aloud. Pastors’ wives, mature Christians, and people older than me were afraid to pray audibly. I determined that my students, ages six and seven, would learn to pray so that fear would not cheat them of the blessing of talking to God about others and their needs. I wanted them to experience the joy of praying and seeing God answer their prayers.
When school began in the fall, only one or two students were willing to pray aloud. Most wanted me to pray for their needs. Instead of simply praying for them, I would ask what they desired to pray for, then lead them to repeat each sentence after me. Soon, they confidently prayed independently and even grew eager to do so, especially after seeing God answer prayers.
What a blessing to hear them pray not only for their own needs but for the needs of classmates, teachers, family, and even missionaries and people overseas. I learned that God wants to hear from everyone, regardless of age. He hears and answers prayers because they matter to us, and we matter to Him.
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” –Matthew 6:9-10, NIV
Help me to train children to talk to You, no matter how young they are. Let them know You care and answer prayers.
In Jesus’ name,
Day 5 Devotional: A Question Asked and Answered
I will never forget the lesson I learned from a little boy about seeing interruptions as opportunities, regardless of my agenda.
I was leading an oral reading group while my remaining students were quietly completing seatwork. To my surprise, Parker interrupted the reading group to tell me he had finished his work and wanted to read Revelation in his Bible. (The first graders at the Christian school were always excited when they mastered the stage of reading so they could read their own copy of the Bible.) My thought was, “Well, good luck with that! Revelation is difficult for adults, much less for children.” But I was not going to discourage him.
Parker interrupted again, tapping his Bible and saying, “Look, look, it is telling what Jesus looks like.” I smiled at his excitement, reminded him not to interrupt the reading group, and sent him back to his seat. Needless to say, his third interruption finally got my attention! Parker was not a student to disobey and usually did not continually interrupt. But he was again tapping on his Bible and exclaiming, “It’s describing Jesus. See?!”
Realizing this was important to Parker, I gave him my attention and asked, “Would you like to read the scripture to the class?”
He nodded and read, “… and among the lampstands was someone like a Son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.” Parker seemed satisfied by this action and returned to his seat.
A few days later, I was telling Parker’s Mom about the incident. She said, “Let me tell you the rest of the story. The night before that happened in class, I told my sons that they could ask God questions, and He would answer them. When I asked Parker his question for God, he said he wanted to know what Jesus looked like!”
Wow, asked and answered! This incident showed me that God cares about the details of our lives more than we realize. He is not too busy to listen to a child and answer his questions. Scripture says to allow the little children to come to Him. Do we encourage them to do that?
“. . . He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'” – Mark 10:14, NIV
Help me to see children as the blessing they are and be patient with their questions and excitement. May I help them draw closer to You through Your Word and encourage them to ask questions and believe they can hear from You, even as I learn to seek You with the same childlike abandonment?
In Jesus’ name,
Day 6 Devotional: An Opportunity to Give
My small class of first-graders once shocked me with their generosity. John Parker, the warehouse director at ANM, informed me of an urgent request for 100 stuffed animals he would ship overseas, but he needed them in just three days. I decided to get my small class involved. So I shared the appeal for stuffed animals to send to children who did not have toys, then asked the students if they would consider giving one of their own stuffed animals and bringing it in the next day.
The children surprised me by bringing not six stuffed animals but seven. An adult school helper heard the request and brought in number eight, a big monkey. The stuffed animals were relatively new and in good shape, but they were also the biggest and best the kids had to offer! I loved their generous hearts and willingness to bless others with their giving.
“If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.“ Romans 12:8 CEV
Help me offer opportunities for children to be generous and give cheerfully. I want to teach them to think of others and their needs.
In Jesus’ name,
Day 7 Devotional: To Shelter or Teach?
Seedtime and Harvest Ministries, directed by Stephen Tolman in Mexico, has been transforming lives in a violent, gang-infested area of the country for more than twenty years through its Saved by Soccer ministry. Children are encouraged to join the soccer team, getting them off the streets and introducing them to Jesus as they learn to apply biblical principles to their situations while playing soccer.
Raising children to serve the Lord comes naturally to Stephen and his wife, Marcela. He recently said, “From the beginning, we involved [our children] in everything because it was either separate family and ministry. Or have more family time by involving them in ministry.”
His daughter, Elisa, helped her mom treat a bullet wound for the first time when she was only five years old. An inmate in the prison was shot, and the Red Cross was reluctant to enter. Marcela and Elisa went to tend to his injury. Little Elisa helped hold the bandage and apply medicine alongside her mother.
Stephen and Marcela decided they could shield their children from violence or use it as a teachable moment. They chose the latter, explaining each occurrence as best they could and emphasizing the difference between the consequences of sin and righteousness. Their method worked. Both of their children are grown and serve with Seedtime and Harvest.
When Stephen encourages children in Saved by Soccer or other ministry initiatives to get involved in God’s work, he knows what it takes and how to guide them through their difficulties. Learning from Stephen’s story, I realized we could either try to shelter children from reality or help them understand the harshness of life and trust Jesus in every situation.
“Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” – Romans 6:13, NIV
Please enable me to turn difficult times into teachable moments. Instead of shielding children from harsh realities, help me train them to see Your hand at work and partner with You to make a difference in people’s lives.
In Jesus’ name,
Day 8 Devotional: Learning to Resist Temptation
In a discussion about Adam and Eve during Bible class, I asked my first-grade students, “Do you think you can resist temptation with the Lord’s help?”
The shocking answer from all of them was a resounding, “No, we cannot resist temptation.”
Challenged by their response, I replied, “ We will practice resisting temptation. I will give you a piece of candy to set on your desk. You are not to eat the candy until lunchtime. Do you think you can resist the temptation? Let’s pray and ask God to help you.”
Hours later, I announced it was time for lunch. The looks of joy and accomplishment on their faces were exciting to see. They had not only resisted temptation, but some of them had also totally forgotten about the candy. They eagerly ate their reward.
I have since tried this with several classes. Each time most children realized they could overcome the temptation to eat the candy before lunch. In fact, only one child ever ate the candy early! Those are pretty good odds with little ones.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV
Please help me show children they can do what You ask because of Your power working in them. They can submit their will to You, resist the devil, and he will flee!
In Jesus’ name,
Day 9 Devotional: Starting a Tradition of Giving
When I gave my sister a copy of ANM’s Gift catalog, her husband saw it as a perfect way to involve their five grandchildren, ages two to ten, with this unique giving opportunity. On a beautiful fall day, they all raked and bagged leaves and magnolia pods to earn money to spend on items in the catalog to help people in other countries. Although they excitedly desired to buy one of everything, the children had to make specific choices with the money they earned. Opal wanted frogs because she loves frogs and lizards. Grant chose chickens and bricks since he raised chickens and likes to build things. Ezra selected bricks to build a Christian school like the one he attends. Samuel said, “I want to buy chickens so other people can have eggs.” And Virginia, the two-year-old who loves to be read to, exclaimed, “Books for kids!”
Earning money to give rather than just being handed it by an adult made the giving more meaningful to them. This year, they had another work day to raise funds again. What a wonderful family tradition to establish — working together to give to others. Energetic Samuel joyfully buried his face in the leaves before placing them in the bag. Virginia, the youngest, sweated as she worked diligently to keep up with the others, but she did her fair share. Training a child to work and give is a valuable lesson that can prove life-changing for both the giver and the recipient. How can you involve children in giving today?
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4, NIV
Please help me provide children with opportunities to give generously, serve others, and be a blessing to people, both near and far. May You increase our generosity as we remember Your own toward us.
In Jesus’ name,