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What a Children’s Ministry Needs

January 11, 2012

Often deep, reflective thought about how the church carries out its mission is reserved for adult ministries (particularly those that occur on Sunday mornings). Children’s ministry is nice…but usually only insomuch as it frees adults to participate in what they want. Ask yourself this question, “If children’s, but not adult, Sunday School were offered at your church would you still wake up an hour early to bring your children?” It is rare today when a parent is truly concerned for what and how their children are being taught in a children’s worship service or Sunday School class. Not that we need to breed a generation of more helicopter parents, but there is an adequate concern and passion God expects from parents as they lead their families in holiness. I am fortunate to be at a church that, for the most part, embraces their role in leading children. However, I realize that I also live in an American culture consumed with “what the church can do for me.” What follows are 5 things I feel are paramount for the church as we minister to children today.

1. Church programs cannot supplant the role of the parents. The church is not a Jesus-focused daycare. It is a community of believers who come together to live a lifestyle of worship to God. This means that everyday of the week, parents are to be intentional in the lives of theirs and other people’s children. Did you get that? The vows we take at baptism to care for the spiritual nurture of every child in our church automatically puts the entire church in the throws of children’s ministry. Our role as a church is to come alongside every parent, ensuring our children are raised to know and love the Lord. A church program cannot raise a child, but caring adults, led by the Spirit, can.

2. We must preach and teach a blood-bought salvation to children. If we do not, then Jesus becomes merely a friend, a good suggestion, or a worthy idea. I sometimes see people squirm when I teach children that they are on a road leading towards death if not for the work of Jesus on their behalf. If I am faithful to teaching the Bible…every verse of it…I have to. It isn’t that I like to be edgy. It’s because, as a pastor who teaches the entire counsel of Scripture, I would leave out the main storyline if I did not include blood and death. If you leave out blood and death, it is not long before you arrive at a morality based children’s ministry where the theology is less “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” and more “smile, tuck your shirt in, and for goodness sake…don’t embarrass me.”

3. We must pray. If I have learned anything this year it is that my heart’s affection is pointed squarely where my mind’s attention is. I need to pray more for the children in my ministry so that my passion when I am preparing lessons, recruiting volunteers, and training teachers is squarely on the hearts of the children I minister to. I need to know that I am reliant on Jesus for the work of the Spirit in my heart and the hearts of our children. Also, we need to pray as a church for our children. We need to petition the Lord boldly for a passionate faith from our children. If we do not pray as we minister to our children, the natural tendency will be a mentality that says, “ministry is up to me.” I prayerful children’s ministry cooperates with the Spirit as he is already at work in the hearts of our children.

4. We must recruit, train, and commission men to lead our children’s ministry. Please don’t hear what I am not saying. Women are completely capable of leading and teaching in the context of children’s ministry. However, if men are not involved in the leadership and oversight of a children’s ministry, then we have not embraced the role of men in leading families. We need a generation of men in college, parenthood, and grandparenthood who make the time to lead. We need a generation who says they can spend one less hour a week watching football to invest in the children of the church. It is funny how often that one hour will easily become two, three, or four as men realize how much more eternally important an investment in our children is than other things that preoccupy them.

5. Children’s ministry must be family ministry. I hit on this a little in the first point. However, it is not an overstatement to say that a children’s pastor gets to spend, at best, about 2-3% of the week with any one child. By far, the largest chunk of time a child gets is with their family. Therefore, if we are to do our job properly as children’s pastors, our role can not stop at children but must extend to the families. Resourcing, praying for, and caring for parents needs to be a big chunk of how a children’s pastor spends their time.

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