Samuel was among the first official “church kids” in Scripture. Because his mom was so grateful to have Samuel after many years of waiting, she committed to give her young son to the service and ministry of the temple. He lived there for his childhood, somewhat similar to the many “church kids” whose families are heavily involved on a regular weekly basis. They are typically at church multiple days during the week. Their lives are centered around the ministry and work of ministry.
Eli was the priest in the temple and though there’s a list of what went wrong, he was instrumental in Samuel’s journey. As ministers to children (which every adult believer is to some degree) we can learn from this child’s life.
1. We need to create (and help create) ways for kids to “grow up” around the faith. We need to welcome them in. We need to encourage them to be in worship. We need to include them in ministry. Trial and error is ok – just keep inviting people. But, we also need to focus in on the key word of “growing” when we think of church kids. Raise the bar, give expectations, follow through with discipline and let them know that you care for them. Samuel was given a chance to live at the temple. To be a part of the ministry. We need to help create those opportunities for kids in our ministries.
2. We need to assist kids in hearing God speak to them. Teach kids to listen for God’s voice. Practice listening for God’s voice. Actually, kids can probably teach us something when it comes to this aspect of being receptive to the spirit at work. Either way, Eli, through the whole scenario of Samuel being called, wasn’t perfect. He stumbled through it. The possibility of God speaking to the child was not even on his mind the first couple of times. But, it finally dawned on him. He finally got it. The Lord doesn’t require each leader to know every answer, but he gives us the relationships to keep moving forward – experiencing it together.
3. We need to bless the parents. Eli was able to bless the parents each time he encountered them. The church needs to be a place where support, love, encouragement and blessing can occur. Parents need help. Stand beside them. Walk with them. Bless them – that they may be wise and patient as they walk the road of raising a child in faith. In practical terms, it might be a simple conversation with a family. Other times, it might be tough love played out through needed parameters and discipline for a child, and other times, it might just be a listening ear. Love and bless the parents. It’s one of our jobs as children’s ministry leaders.
Later in the story of Samuel, God sends him to anoint David, also at the time a young boy. It’s a reminder that the kids we are ministering to today are going to be the leaders very soon. God is calling children to himself and we (at times) have the privilege of walking beside these kids as they grow in faith, follow Christ and discover their ministry in the kingdom of God.