Ask Steve: Children’s Ministry

Transforming

 

Currently Reading:

Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face

By Daniel Henderson

Category: Prayer / Christian Living

2011, Bethany House

 

 

Question: Steve, how will you view the place of children in the church? What is the church’s responsibility to children and children’s ministry? How will you respond to children (and their parents) who desire to be baptized and become members of the church?

Answer: Children of all ages should always be a subject of the church’s care. They should not be neglected or treated as merely a side-project in which the church is there to babysit them or entertain them with stories. Like all people, we must see children as part of our Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) efforts in which we are actively seeking to evangelize and disciple them. Since these children are the future generation who will lead, govern, and influence culture, we must see to it that they come to salvation in Christ and be instilled with a Christian worldview so they can honor the Lord with their lives in the future and be a light in society. This shows how important children are in our ministry work.

In fact, the New Testament depicts Jesus as having a particular fondness for children. Matthew 19:14 says, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Jesus understood the importance of caring for and fostering the faith of the youth. Children are humble, dependent, teachable, and tender in their conscience, which is why the church must devote a good amount of time teaching them the fundamentals of the faith. Ecclesiastes 12:1 tells us to remember our Creator in the days of our youth, because as time goes by, people’s heart becomes hardened and they get desensitized to the sinful lifestyle. Deuteronomy 6:7 captures the important principle of parents passing down godly instruction to their children (as Israelites did in the days of Moses), when it says, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” This means that parents should make every effort to speak about and glorify God in conversation in front of the children, and teach them Scripture with the hopes that they will be godly people in the future.

CM 1The church has a major responsibility for both ministering to the children and teaching parents how to guide their children in the Christian faith. Like I have said, the church’s education or youth department does not exist to give children a pastime, a playground, or a social circle. These things are good, but they should be part of the larger agenda of seeking to instill the gospel within children so they can be saved and transformed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.    The children’s ministry must be faithful to preach the gospel to children. It must be able to evangelize the children, whether through the pulpit or through personal discipleship, in which children learn the truth of God as Creator, man as a lawbreaker, the eternal punishment of hell, the incarnation of Christ, His atonement, the resurrection, and repentance and faith. The ministry must also be committed to teaching children the whole counsel of God, or the contents of the entire Bible. It must do so in a manner that is understandable and relatable, since children do not have an attention span or comprehension level that is the same as adults. To teach the Word of God in a way that connects with children, but at the same time is confident, full, and truthful, is to practice what Paul did when he became “all things to all people so that by all means [he] might save some” (1 Cor 9:22).

The children’s ministry should help children not only see the truth of God, the gospel, and Christian living, but be able to understand and defend it. That is why apologetics is an ideal, if not significant, part of children’s discipleship, which must be presented through pulpit preaching, Bible camps, Bible studies, or personal teacher/student discipleships in class. As children slowly progress toward adolescence, they encounter struggles of finding specific questions to their faith, especially since they are bombarded with anti-biblical messages from the media, school, and friends. This is how many teenagers end up leaving the church and the faith once they graduate from high school. Although the Bible teaches that internalization of the gospel by faith is the means by which children remain in the faith, God still places importance in the church’s ability to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you.” That is why gospel ministry should always have a healthy dose of being able to shed light on the validity of Scripture through scientific, philosophical, prophetic, and archaeological discussions. It gives children more reason to come to faith, and others a tremendous encouragement to grow in their faith and defend it in public.

CM 3As much as the church is involved in the spiritual growth of children, parents must likewise be committed to this task. It is not enough for parents to simply drop kids off at church on Sundays and go on with the rest of secular life on weekdays. Parents must be committed as Christians, evangelists, and disciplemakers to disciple their children in the faith, starting from the time children are able to speak and learn. That is the whole principle of Deuteronomy 6:9. That is why the church should have regular meetings with parents to inform them of their children’s progress in the faith and what they can do to help in the church’s efforts. Parents must be taught the importance of having regular Bible devotions with the children, teaching them as much in the Bible as they can. They must also train their children in all righteousness, which includes instruction, reproof, rebuke, etc (Prov 22:6, 15, 2 Tim 3:16-17). Parents must also be taught the importance of living out a Christian worldview as a testimony to their children, in which all of their speech and action glorifies God in truth and grace. Parents must model such things as holy living, prayer, Scripture reading, evangelism, proper exercise of Christian liberty, godly discipline, and attitudes of thanksgiving, faith, love, and other practices that give credence to the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is through the teaching and testimony of parents that many children come to saving faith, because they see their parents good works and glorify the Father in heaven (Matt 5:16).

CM 2If children make a profession of faith and desire to be baptized and serve in the church, the children’s ministry should follow several key steps. The church should make sure the child is baptized before taking communion and serving in any major department of the church, since baptism is the first major step of a Christian’s obedience to the Lord. The church should be eager and joyful to baptize the child/teenager. However, they should take precaution by ascertaining to the best of their ability the child/teenager’s salvation. This is done by asking the teenager his salvation testimony and observing fruits of saving faith for a short period of time. After the child is publicly baptized, he is fully entitled to become a member of the church and receive the benefits that it entails (ex. serving in church, deacon’s funds, accountability). The child/teenager should take a member’s class or at least be instructed by a brethren in Christ so he/she can understand the purpose of church membership and what commitments are involved. This model is very similar to the process with adult Christians who want to become church members.

Ministry to children is challenging at times, but significant and rewarding. They, like all unbelievers, need the gospel and need to be taught the truth of Scripture with power, love, and conviction. That is why the church should give a significant amount of their time, resource, and help to specifically evangelizing and discipling children in the faith, and teaching parents how to do likewise with specific strategies.