If you are a pastor or in church leadership, if you volunteer in Sunday school or the church nursery, if you teach children’s church or help with vacation bible school: this one is for you, please keep reading.
I’ve probably started and erased 100 blogs on the subject of children’s ministry, maybe more. I have not published a single one. That is, until today. Today will begin a series of posts that have been well over 14 years in the making. I must admit that I have fought what Holy Spirit has wanted to do because I don’t want to step on the wrong toes. And for that, I’m am sorry.
After 14 years volunteering in children’s ministry as an adult, helping and teaching as a teenager and raising my own children I’ve learned a thing or two. That experience, along with God’s calling on my life, has propelled me to begin calling out the church on how they view and handle ministry to children.
So let’s get to it.
There has been a lot of research done on how to keep children from leaving the church as they become adults. I could quote statistic after statistic on the spiritual development of children and when morals begin to form and when they become more concrete in a child. Eventually we will get to the statistics, but not in this post. I will save that for later.
I’ve found that my opinion on a subject is best formed when I first look at what the Bible has to say about it. That way my opinion ceases to be my opinion and it becomes what God says about a subject. I prefer His take on it because He is always right and I am often wrong. What exactly does God say about children? How does He view them and treat them?
In Genesis, God tells Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Right away He establishes that having children is a good thing. He called it “fruitful”. He did NOT call it wasteful or tiring or draining or even work…but instead it’s “fruitful”. Jacob told Esau that his children were “graciously” given to him by God. And the promise given to Abraham by God was a promise of children. That promise created an entire nation and through the same promise God would one day bring the Messiah into our world. In Psalm 127, children are called a heritage and reward from the Lord. We can find instances all throughout scripture where children are viewed as a blessing.
Psalms 8 says that God has ordained strength out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants so that the enemy may be silenced. No doubt that there is purpose for even the smallest of the human race.
In Deuteronomy 6, God tells the Hebrews to impress his law upon their children. He told them to talk about the law when they sit at home and walk along the road and at bedtime and when they get up in the morning. In Proverbs we are told to train up a child in the way they should go. God makes it clear that teaching children is important and it’s an all day, every day thing to do.
And probably my favorite….in Mark 10 Jesus is clearly in the middle of teaching on a very adult subject. I mean they are discussing divorce and adultery right after the Pharisees try to test Jesus on the matter. But parents keep bringing their children for Jesus to place His hands on them. The disciples rebuked the parents for doing this. I’m sure the children were not quiet. I’m sure there was some crying and a whole lot of playing. Maybe giggling and shouting. Probably squirming and rolling and crawling and running. Some children may have been sick. Some may have been dirty. What we do know for sure is that Jesus became indignant (that means angry) with the disciples’ rebuke. Jesus then said “let the children come to me” and He said that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it. The New King James version said that “He took them up in His arms”. He held them and He laid His hands on them and He blessed them.
Now if children are that important to Jesus, if they truly are a reward from God, if God really has ordained praise from their mouths, if they matter that much to Him…then why? Why does church after church have a larger adult sanctuary than they do a children’s sanctuary? And why do some churches not even have a children’s sanctuary? Why are children sitting on dirty floors while their parents are sitting in cushioned seats? Why is there enough room for the adults to have Sunday school on the main floor but the kids’ Sunday school classes are relegated to a damp basement? Why do we expect our children to sit still during worship so they are not a distraction to an adult? Why would we ever call a reward from the Lord a distraction? Why don’t we ever consider that maybe the adults are the distraction to what God is trying to do with the child? Why do we spend thousands on instruments and a sound system for the adults and maybe 100 bucks (that’s a big maybe) on a boom box and CD’s for the kids? Why are our churches filled with stuff that kids can’t touch? Why are we begging for volunteers in children’s ministry? Why aren’t people lining up to teach the kids? Why isn’t every church doing at least a limited back ground check on all those that work with children? And why, as a parent, did I NEVER ask this question? Why are we not training every volunteer on a regular and consistent basis? Why do we have people working with our children that we would never allow to count our money? And why doesn’t every single church have a dedicated children’s pastor (even if they are part-time or volunteer only)? And why….why as I write this….why as you read this….am I offended at my own questions?
Look, I know that maybe we have good solid answers to some of these questions. Maybe there are really good reasons for some things. But we are talking about our children. God’s children. Maybe it’s time we stop explaining away the issues and start asking ourselves what we can do better. Maybe it’s time to look at each area of our ministry to children and analyze it to see if we are giving it our absolute best.
And that is my purpose. For the next few weeks each of my posts will focus on an area of children’s ministry. It’s my hope and my prayer that we are pleasing the Lord in every aspect of what we do as a church. That includes giving our best to minister to those that are so precious and dear to His heart. You may find that your church is doing a great job and as a parent you’ve got it covered. And you may find that there is room for improvement. Either way, we owe it to our children and to Jesus to at least take a look.