As children’s ministry leaders, there is one thing that should be on our priority list—Teaching Gratitude! We all know that we should be grateful and that it’s important to give thanks; but is it possible we’ve lost sight of just how important it is to God?
God holds us to a higher standard, His Standard. Because of this, we need to look at gratefulness through God’s eyes. Not only is being grateful important, it’s vital to sustain a relationship with God. Teaching gratitude to our kids may be one of the more important lessons we teach our kids.
Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God or gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Look at what happened to them as a result of them not glorifying God, and not giving thanks to Him: 1) Their thinking became futile, 2) Their foolish hearts were darkened.
Futile thinking literally means they were incapable of producing any useful result; their thoughts were pointless. Wow! This is some pretty strong language. Sadly, this is what we are seeing more and more today. People are very strongly opinionated, but their opinions produce no results. They can’t get from point A to point B in the thought process. People are stuck at point A, but without results people grow restless, angry, and aggressive.
What is the result of futile thinking? You guessed it, foolishness. It says their foolish hearts were darkened. To be foolish is to lack wisdom. We know that what we give our minds over to, our hearts will eventually follow. So, if our minds have been ruled by futile thinking and foolishness, then our hearts will follow. We will begin to love foolishness. We will lack judgement and make unwise decisions, and yet we will see it as good judgement for we will love our decisions. That’s a scary place to be. A society that thinks the foolish things are wise, and the wise things are foolish. The following verse reveals this to be the result, Romans 1:22, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” We are seeing this in our world today. Could it all stem from ungratefulness to God?
Wrath of God
No, this isn’t the ‘fire coming down from heaven’ section. You see, most of the time the wrath of God is Him removing his hand of protection from you and letting you have your own way. As a result, you experience the consequences for your actions. If you continue in Romans 1, it goes on to say that God gave them over to their sinful desires, their shameful lusts, and a depraved mind. Essentially, He let them have it their way.
In this passage of scripture, all of the following things grew out of ungratefulness to God: idol worship, sexual impurity, immorality, wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossiping, slandering, God-hating, insolent, boastful, arrogant, inventing new ways to do evil, disobeying parents, no understanding, no love, no fidelity, no mercy
Romans 1:32 says that even though they knew God said those who do sin deserve death, they not only continue to do them, but they approve of those who practice such things.
This should be a wake up call to all. For this is what we see happening before our eyes today. A society that not only practices such things, but approves of others who practices them as well. God’s standard has been erased from the hearts and minds of the people of the world. People have been given over to their own desires. The very things that caused people to pause in the past, no longer creates a pause in the minds or hearts of men.
Now, as children’s ministry leaders, we have an opportunity to instill something that will help preserve our children and keep them from such futile thinking and foolish hearts. We can teach the discipline of gratitude.
Here are four ways to help instill gratitude in the children you minister to:
1) Teach your kids to be polite.
This is more important than just having pleasant children. Saying please, thank you, and you’re welcome, creates an atmosphere of respect and honor. If a child won’t honor and respect an authority figure, they won’t show honor and respect to God, the ultimate authority figure. It begins with manners.
2) Teach children to be grateful for the things they may sometimes take for granted.
I believe in showing children articles, pictures, and videos of children around the world who don’t have the things we have. The children and I will talk about the differences in our lives and others around the world. The kids pray and intercede for these children and their families situations. Then, the kids thank the Lord for the way that he has blessed them.
It only takes one outreach at the soup kitchen or the homeless shelter to help kids gain a greater heart of compassion and gratitude. Kids won’t understand how thankful they should be to have a roof over their head, until they realize that many people don’t. They won’t feel truly grateful for the food on their plate, until they realize that many people don’t have any food to eat.
3) Teach kids to be thankful even when things aren’t perfect.
I heard someone say that they would be thankful too, if their life was as good as mine. Well, everyone has struggles. Maybe they didn’t see mine, because of my thankful heart. It’s all perspective. Kids need to know that when they get in trouble and are disciplined by their parents, they should be thankful that they have parents that care enough to discipline them. Because later in life, when God disciplines them, they will receive it with thanksgiving. They’ll understand that God disciplines his children because He loves them.
If you have a child dealing with hard times at home or family health issues, teach them to be thankful for the good moments, memories, and times God has blessed them with.
4) Teach kids to approach God with Thanksgiving!
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. We all know this verse, and most of us have probably taught it to our kids. But do they really understand the significance of it?
Try this one out; ask the kids if they like to go over their friends house to have fun and eat dinner. All of them will probably say yes. Now, ask how many of them thank their friends parents when they arrive at their house, or when they leave? Many kids will say they do. (because their parents taught them manners) Explain to the kids that when we come before God, we are entering His house, His Presence! The Bible says to enter with thanksgiving!
Practice doing this next time you lead a worship song with the kids. Tell them we are going to enter His house by giving thanks, just like when we enter our friends house by thanking their parents for having us over. Have the kids go around the room and thank God for one thing. This prepares the hearts of your children to praise God. See if you can tell the difference in your time of worship together.
Thanksgiving is a great time of year to begin focusing on teaching gratitude in your children’s ministry. As the new year approaches, continue to help your children express gratitude to each other and to the Lord! For we are called to equip the children for God’s kingdom purposes and one of the greatest tools is a thankful heart.
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