Now that the third DiscipleTown unit, How to Grow Spiritual Fruit is available, I can’t help thinking about what a privilege it is for me to literally join with hundreds of children’s church teachers around the country, and some even farther away, in helping children learn the secrets to growing genuine spiritual fruit. It is my prayer that each teacher who uses this material will find it challenging and encouraging in their own spiritual journey as well. I know that as I have studied for and prepared these lessons I have been reminded again that I need to work less at “being good” and more at drawing closer to God to let His goodness shine through me!
I have to tell you, when I set out to start this series, I did not want to write just another series on the same old familiar “fruit of the spirit” stuff. I told the good folks at DiscipleLand, “teaching kids about the fruit of the spirit is like teaching someone how to be a banana. I’d rather teach someone how to grow bananas, or how to grow spiritual fruit, than do another series that just described the individual fruits of the Spirit.” They agreed, and I’m thankful they gave me the freedom to write a fresh approach on the topic. So you won’t be seeing lessons on what are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. Instead, you will discover a series on what must take place in our life for those fruits to grow out of our lives naturally. For a banana tree does not work at growing bananas – it simply grows them because it is a banana tree!
Children get enough discouragement from adults who constantly tell them what they are doing wrong or need to do better. Kids need to hear more often how they are loved, forgiven, and believed in. They need to be encouraged and reminded that while their behavior may not always be on par, their value and worth are good beyond description! Kids are good in God’s eyes because he made them, and whatever God made IS good! He finished each day of creation by saying, “It is good.”
As we shepherd the children in our ministries, it is critical to focus on kids’ hearts more than their behavior. When we observe bad conduct, our primary instinct ought not to be to correct the behavior, but to mold the heart that determined the behavior. Plenty of techniques can shape children’s behavior, but if we only succeed in changing outward behavior, we will have only created little Pharisees who know how to behave at church. It is unlikely that those efforts will impact how they behave at home, at school, and after they outgrow children’s ministry. But if we reach their hearts and train children to grow spiritual fruit from the inside out, we will have truly succeeded in making disciples!
So this latest unit of DiscipleTown isn’t about helping children work harder at being good or striving to produce spiritual fruit. It is about equipping them to work with the Gardener in tending to their soul so that the fruit He wants to produce can be grown His way, naturally!
I look forward to teaming up with so many of you again – even as I am currently writing the next series, How to Choose Good Friends!
Be sure to join me in the new DiscipleTown forum – I love interacting with you about DiscipleTown – and your input and suggestions are impacting and shaping future units, so talk to me! And together, let’s make young disciples for Jesus!
Because Jesus Loves Children,