Children between the ages of 5 and 12 are, more than any other time in their lives, forming their lenses through which they will make decisions. They are open to and absorbing more about spiritual dimensions of life more than any other time. They are developing attitudes and habits about prayer, worship and faithful living.
According to Barna, we spend 68 times more money per capita caring for the average felon than on church ministry to a spiritually hungry child. Too often, families think of spiritual component to life as just one more cursory aspect, to go along with all the other aspects to life. An example might be placing a ball practice or ball game on the same priority level as participating in regular weekly worship. Truth be told, the emotional, educational, physical and mental development of a child will never be complete without going through the spiritual foundation first. Young children must learn to make decisions based on this all important life purpose, a connection with Jesus, that without, they will wander, flounder, and be lost.
Many churches believe in ministry to children. Money is invested in staff, in dedicated parts of the building that are highly engaging, and in supplies, curriculum and special event budgets. But even leaders, at times, become misinformed. Thinking that adults are where the kingdom action is, we relegate and transfer all kingdom ministry and development of children to the children’s department. Pastors and leaders preach a couple sermons a year on the importance, children’s directors look for volunteers, but for the most part, the intentional transformational ministry eludes the mainstream church.
As much as we may want to say we are serving in children’s ministry, many churches struggle to find people to help in the ministry and when we do find them, our end goal is to “keep” kids while parents are in church.
What is it going to take to help transform the lives of children? Why does it seem there is so little power to engage and attract children? There may be some difficulties, but don’t give up!
Do not underestimate…
The power of a children’s ministry that reaches out.
When children’s ministry reaches out to the home and community several things happen: Kids have a chance to hear about Christ in new ways and environments. Families are able to connect and join each other in helping to open the spiritual hearts and lives of children. Parents have a partner – the church – offering a another spiritual voice in their kid’s lives. Many families don’t even realize what they are missing until they get connected. Reaching out in children’s ministry is important because it’s often the first step to the whole family getting involved. Parents follow kids around these days. Reaching out and inviting other kids to non-threatening events helps us get connected to children outside our walls.
The Power of a church focused on kids.
When a church is focused on children, there is a sense of mission and hope. The future seems brighter. There is more energy. There is a sense of purpose in planning for kids and ministries to children. The church makes a priority of connecting with families, loving kids, arranging their buildings and rooms so they are kid and family friendly and investing money on them. This is not lost on families. They know when they are welcomed some place and when they are not. Immediate fix those things in your building or in your structure that will repel families with kids. [Read more: 15 Concerns in Children’s Ministry, Thom Rainer]
The power of teaching kids about true discipleship.
It’s more than fun and games. Children’s ministry opens the door to partner with parents to teach what it means to be a disciple. Children get to experience ministry first hand and learn to follow Jesus with all they are. Statistics have proven a large percentage of people who come to Christ do so between the ages of 4-12. When we help kids grasp this message of Jesus, transformation power comes in big ways!
The power of setting high expectations for children.
Children, and families for that matter, will rise to our expectations. We have what we allow. As we help set the tone for the life of a disciple, they will begin to catch the vision. We must remain diligent in keeping families in the loop, giving them markers for their kids in ministry, and helping children grow in Christ as they march toward young adulthood. Expectations on practical things are also important – signing up for ministry events on time, discipline while they are in attendance in children’s ministry and involvement of families in ministry. Make sure people know your expectations, then lovingly begin to make them a reality. [Read: Three little known ways to keep discipline in children’s ministry]
The power that comes through intentional prayer.
There are some things that can only happen through prayer. In today’s world – like every other season in history – life is hard. We need to pray for our children and families. We need to pray for families in the communities that surround us . We need to teach our kids to pray powerful, childlike faith prayers. Prayer is an ingredient we need in kids ministry. Enlist some prayer warriors just for children’s ministry.
The power of a partnership between a quality children’s ministry and the home.
Training up a child in faith primarily happens in the home, but a quality children’s ministry working along side parents can be dynamite! We may only have kids for two or three hours a week, but those times are so beneficial to adding strength to faith formation. Additionally, a partnership can be forged as we enlist leaders from the church to help walk with families – offering short term financial classes, helping with child care or giving rides to school. There are so many ways the church can actively join forces with family to help in raising kids with a biblical world view.
I believe that family is a key ingredient a child walking in faith. Study after study shows if a family is faithful in worship attendance, kids have a better chance of growing up to be faithful to Christ and the church. But I’m concerned churches have taken a laze faire approach, relegating all children’s spiritual formation to the home while we try too little to support from afar. Children’s ministry, like Jesus did, was a “come unto me” sort of endeavor. The church can be puddy in families, the church can pray for the home, the church can hire people to help create moments for children to engage with the message of Christ and church can be a place where kids and families come together in the kind of community that can be found no other place on this earth. Don’t give up – keep doing something! God is still using children’s ministry in powerful ways through His church!