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Because Kids Matter to God

Meet the team behind Family Studies—the new Today in the Word monthly devotional for children

By Anneliese Rider  /  April 30, 2024

Moody Bible Institute’s BA in Children and Family Ministry program head Elizabeth Smith

Introducing kids to Jesus is Elizabeth Smith’s passion, and as program head for Moody Bible Institute’s BA in Children and Family Ministry, she’s training the next generation to fulfill the mission she holds dear.

With the new Today in the Word Family Studies, senior-level students are not only getting valuable experience writing age-appropriate devotional curriculum, they are also opening up Today in the Word to its newest audience: children.

‘We just didn’t give up’

Years ago, Elizabeth Smith and Jamie Janosz, managing editor of Today in the Word, came up with an idea. What if there was a kid-friendly version of an adult devotion that parents could use to disciple their children?

After some experiments, they settled on a solution: Condense the 30-day devotional format of Today in the Word into one for kids and run it in every month’s issue. But that would take time, intentional planning, and a monthly commitment to write the devotionals.

That didn’t stop them.

“Jamie and I worked together to figure out what it would look like and how we would narrow it down. We just didn’t give up,” Elizabeth says. “We tried different things; we just kept at it. We persevered.”

Once they had decided on structure—four engaging, biblically sound lessons per issue, written at the developmentally appropriate level for children ages five to ten—Jamie and Elizabeth faced the next challenge: finding qualified writers.

Meet the team

Fortunately, they didn’t have to look any farther than the Children and Family Ministry program, and sure enough, four seniors jumped at the opportunity.

“I have 20-some students in the class,” Elizabeth says, referring to her senior seminar course. “Some want to train children’s ministry workers; others want to teach. But every year there are seniors who want to write for kids. They want to do curriculum, they want to do devotionals, they want to do communications online. Those are the ones who come alongside and learn how to do this.”

Haylee Grindal, Ashleigh Hildebrandt, Annie Cornette, and Abigail Peterson are the writers for this year’s Family Studies. Their future ministry callings range from international orphan care to helping their local community’s parents disciple their children. But the students have one thing in common: a commitment to teach the next generation about Jesus and the Bible.

Writing for Today in the Word is uniquely preparing them to do that.

“This experience for Today in the Word has helped me grow in my knowledge and understanding of crafting lessons for children,” Annie says.

Today in the Word Family Studies April Edition

The April edition of Family Studies is available to download for free now.

The student writers work several months in advance alongside the Today in the Word team. After studying each issue’s topic, they create several different sections:

  • A brief introduction to the study
  • 10 interesting facts about the topic
  • Four lessons, each one with a Bible passage, discussion questions, and an activity

The students work back and forth with Elizabeth, and when they’ve completed the content, Jamie edits and approves it.

‘We want them to learn Scripture’

Lesson one is included in each print edition. Each full family study can be found online at Four lessons may not seem like much to accompany a whole month of adult daily devotions in Today in the Word, but it’s enough.

“Kids don’t need more information—more information is not always better,” Elizabeth explains. “Take the one devotional, and you can really chew on it with your kids over the week. Take your time. Learn it. This isn’t just to expose them to Scripture; we want them to learn Scripture.”

Elizabeth brings her own passion to the project and to the classroom, encouraging and championing the students through her experience and excitement.

“I have spent the last 35 years studying and working with children, youth, and families clinically as a counselor, academically as a professor, and as a pastor’s wife and leader in the church,” Elizabeth says, also mentioning her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and her 18 years teaching at Moody. “The spiritual formation of our children has been a passion and a focus of my life in Christ.”

Making an impact around the world

The Family Studies have only been published in the monthly Today in the Word issues since December 2023, but they’re already influencing the lives of countless children and parents.

“It’s reaching so many people,” Elizabeth says. “My students are getting people who Facebook or Instagram them, saying ‘Wow, this is really making a difference.’”

She recounts a recent story from a woman serving in a closed European country in an area where there is no pastor and no church.

“This woman is actually using this to evangelize children in an unreached village,” Elizabeth says. “I don't know how we would get the chance to do that otherwise.

"Family Studies are making a difference with the gospel and the Word of God in places that none of us would be able to go.”