May 12, 2017

Reformation at 500, a Goldmine for Children’s Ministries

Adventist Review Staff

As the Christian world is making the most of 2017 to remember the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, some local Seventh-day Adventist churches are finding the event presents wonderful opportunities to engage children in the celebration.

“Creativity abounds when we see that God is blessing so many efforts,” said Clair Sanches, Children’s Ministries director in the Trans-European church region, based in England and which includes 22 countries. “I have seen time and again that where we are willing, God opens paths and areas for us to enter.”

By way of example, Sanches told how on March 25, a day that in Hungary is “National Children’s Day,” the Children Ministries Department of the Adventist Church in the country organized a “Super-Sabbath” celebration focused on remembering the Reformation.

At the beginning of the program, children had to pass through a special “time machine” that transported them back 500 years.

“In an atmosphere of Renaissance music, and with helpers dressed in period clothing, children learned about Martin Luther,” reported Sanches. “They also learned about the 95 theses, and most importantly, the need to read the Bible and to accept Jesus as the one who forgives all our sins.”

Below is another example of a local Adventist church, almost 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) away, and in another continent, that found ways of engaging children in remembering the 500th anniversary of that eventful event in Christian history.

Indulgences or Free Salvation?

A few months ago, a small church in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia organized a Reformation Celebration geared to members, neighbors, and friends. The New Glasgow Seventh-day Adventist Church, in the small town of Glasgow, gathered the community together to learn about Martin Luther and the Reformation.

"Let’s challenge each other—young and old—to be ‘Sola Scriptura’ Christians."

“We were surprised to see that community members outnumbered church members,” said organizer Cheryl Hamilton. “We enjoyed telling Luther’s story using a storybook, pictures, and even a skit.”

Activities specifically geared to children were interspersed throughout the story to reinforce its key aspects.

Children climbed the stairs on their knees like Luther “paying penance,” and then found eggs with a message inside stating, “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). Children then stood up and walked back down the stairs.

Members and neighbors learned about Mr. Tetzel, who sold indulgences claiming these items would grant them forgiveness. One child, dressed as “Mr. Tetzel” tried to sell “wood from Jesus’ cross,” “Jesus’ nails,” or bits of “Jesus’ clothing.” Meanwhile, “Martin Luther” tried to convince potential customers to ignore Tetzel and read Bible verses which reveal that salvation is a gift from God that cannot be earned by human effort.

Blindfolded, children posted the 95 theses on the church door, and then watched a re-enactment of the Diet of Worms, with Luther telling Charles V he could not recant. They also learned about the “Sola Scriptura”—by the Bible alone—principle, the basis of Luther’s theology.

As people wishing to know more about Luther and other Reformers were offered a copy of The Great Controversy, by church co-founder Ellen G. White, children and visitors were encouraged to search the Scriptures and find the truth for themselves as the Reformers had done.

“The evening ended with children holding lights—the ‘lights of truth,’” said Hamilton. “[Children and visitors] were reminded that none of the Reformers through history had all the light of truth, but that they studied their Bibles to discover more truth.”

The program closed as everyone sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” a hymn written by Luther, while one of the children accompanied them on the piano.

Hamilton thinks every church should make the most of this year, as we discuss how the Reformation has affected the world and the religious freedom we enjoy. “And let’s challenge each other—young and old—to be ‘Sola Scriptura’ Christians,” she said.

With reports from Trans-European Division News and the Canadian Adventist Messenger.