What is “Ministry?” A simplified response may be:
MINISTRY is the process of changing people from who they are into who Christ is. It may also be thought of as “letting God use you for the spreading of his Word and will, for His glory.” (See Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 1:22,23, 4:11-16; Colossians 1:28,29; II Timothy 2:1-7.)
Bouncing Pin Balls?
We’ve seen a lot of “Children’s Ministry” that’s little more than childcare, free babysitting or “busy work” intended to keep kids occupied while “real ministry” is left to and for adults. Offerings may include various social or seasonal events (picnics, game nights, Christmas and Easter programs, etc.), Wednesday night programming, Sunday school and so on. Sprinkle in a few Bible verses. Add a song or two. Toss in some coloring pages, activity sheets, snacks or games and that’s “ministry.”
Nothing wrong with any of that, but is it going to produce any spiritual champions? We wonder about “children’s ministries” that bounce around from one event or week to the next like balls in a pinball machine, sans any coherent plan, strategy, vision, or unifying purpose. Examples:
Missing the Target?
Curriculum is disconnected and haphazard. One class or teacher uses one source or material. Someone else uses another. There’s no consistency or clear objective. Teachers rotate in and out without any unifying purpose, theme, message, content or context. “Teaching” consists of re-telling Bible stories children have already heard a million times (snore!). Kids may be able to tell you who Moses was, but they don’t know if he was a contemporary with Daniel and Abraham or Jesus and Paul. No connection is made with the “Big God Story” – His redemptive work throughout human history and where I fit in His plan. And so on. Calendars may be full. Activities may abound. But when’s the last time someone stopped to ask, “What does God want us to do? What are we trying to accomplish?” As on old boss used to say,
The best way to miss a target is to have nothing to aim at.
Listen and Learn
So, if you haven’t already done so, please, please sit down with your C.M. staff, volunteers, teachers parents or committee members and invest in some prayerful strategizing and draft a cogent, cohesive Philosophy of Children’s Ministries. Establish a clear Mission, Vision and Core Values. Start by listening. What are kids saying? If they’re bored or dissatisfied, ask Why? Engage parents. What do they want to see in Children’s Ministries? What aretheir needs? Identify C.M. strengths and weaknesses. How can you improve? Ask: What are we trying to do? How are we going to get there (more on this later)? Here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling:
MINISTRY TO CHILDREN should always be dependent upon divine direction and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. It should be God-focused, grounded in Scripture and undergirded in prayer. (We should remain mindful of the fact that effective ministry of any sort will be opposed by the Enemy and will need to be fought for.) Ministry to children should involve parents and include an intentional scope and sequence focusing on cultivating spiritual formation and transformation such that this generation is able to effectively pass on a vibrant, compelling faith to the next.
Ministry to children should be “living, creative, active and powerful. It should be marked by Passion, Boldness, Excellence, and Vision. It should include:
- Reaching, teaching, and equipping children to become authentic Christ followers.
- Advancing and enriching the spiritual lives of children so that they know, grow in and serve Christ as spiritual champions and leaders of tomorrow.
- Teaching, inspiring, challenging and engaging the emerging generation so that they become all that their Creator intends them to be, blessing God and others with who they are and how they live.
EFFECTIVE MINISTRY TO CHILDREN should also include:
- Sharing the Gospel and encouraging/training in spiritual disciplines
- Teaching cardinal doctrines of the faith in age-appropriate settings
- Equipping children to become authentic Christ followers
- Relational – conscientious, intentional effort must be made to get to know the child if we are to relate to him or her in a meaningful way
- Flexible and adaptable, mindful of the fact that approaches, programs, activities, curricula, methods or paradigms from thirty or forty – or even twenty or ten – years ago may not be efficient or effective in reaching children in the 21st century
- Open to change, growth, advancement, continual development and refinement as God leads and need dictates
- An ever-changing, dynamic process that fosters and promotes cutting-edge, forward-thinking
Additionally, main goals of ministry to children should include raising, equipping and championing a generation of spiritual champions who, as in the tru ministry model:
- Worship “from the inside out,” compelled by the Holy Spirit, rather than through expected or mandated behavior. They see worship as a lifestyle instead of a once-a-week event.
- Evince a kingdom community mindset and choose to usher in the presence, power and priorities of God in everyday situations.
- Grasp and apply a global worldview and feel responsible for their brothers and sisters – immediate family, local church, community, country and world.
- Are compelled to make Christ known to every corner of the globe within their lifetime.
- Are not just knowledgeable about God’s Word (able to cite information, identify characters, facts, or history), but are being transformed by it on a daily basis.
What else? What’s your vision for Children’s Ministry?
For further reading:
Getting Started in Children’s Ministries – Basics 101.