For many years now my husband has had the pleasure of leading in Children’s Ministry. We have found ourselves at two different church’s and we are now on the verge of transitioning into a new church at the end of March.
We have a heart for young souls experiencing the power of God’s Word. And my husband works hard to bring children into the presence of Jesus through the Scriptures every weekend. He is dedicated to not just be another moral teacher and he is uninterested in being purely values-based in his teaching. Kids get that stuff at school all the time, so his joy is to open the Word of God with children and show them who Jesus is and what the full counsel of God means for them personally.
We have a high view of Scripture. Even with Kids.
Little ones have a capacity to understand the things of God in a way that we do not give enough credit. They are willing vessels, and we have seen them grasp theological concepts that would put some adults to shame.
Values alone don’t change little hearts, only the gospel can do that. Sure values have their place, but in order to know and experience the gospel you must crack open and go deep into Scripture.
Our experience in Children’s Ministry has taught us a lot about church life and I truly believe that you can get a sense about how your church feels about the Bible by looking no further than the children’s wing of the church. In a way, Sunday School is a great litmus test to see how important the Word of God is to the larger church.
Is your Children’s Ministry predominantly teaching the kids about Christian principles and values? What kind of lessons are being taught? Is it mostly about being more kind, honest or obedient? Do they teach the full counsel of God? Are they telling kids about who God is? Is Christ and His grace at the center of the teaching? Do children have Bibles in their hands at church? Do they open those Bibles when they are in Sunday School?
From my experience if a church is not really dedicated to having a Word-based or Gospel-Centered (sorry I know that term has been over-used) Children’s Ministry, it is likely that the adult preaching is of a similar variety.
I am not saying that Sunday School should be boring and stale and dusty. Kids need visuals and activities and even some fun to drive a message home. So those things should be very present in ministry to kids. But we must not sacrifice Scripture on the altar of entertainment and palatable ditties in order to bring children to Christ.
One of my favorite ministry quotes is, “What you win them with, is what you win them to”, because in my experience it is absolutely true!
If you make your Children’s Ministry all about fun and entertainment, like a mini (but worse) Disneyland. And all you feed them is the same values-based stuff they get from Sesame Street (only with a dash of God in it), then they will be won to the understanding that Christianity is about being good and having an experience. And eventually they will discard it when it no longer makes them “happy”.
In values-based (alone) church’s, kids never hear hard truths about denying yourself and following Christ. They never understand the weight of their own sin. They don’t get prepared for the suffering that comes when you follow Jesus. And there is no solid foundation of knowing Scripture to carry them through the bumpiness of adolescence.
Listen, I am not suggesting we scare our little ones half to death or guilt them into making a “decision” or weigh them down with concepts they are too young to process. But I am boldly proposing that kids should know what the Christian walk truly is.
And it is highly likely that if the Children’s Ministry isn’t talking about the truth of the Bible and the faith it encourages, the adults are getting a similar message. And all it does is breed a kind of me-focused, immature and comfortable faith.
These kinds of congregations are often not hearing Biblical, gospel-centered, expositional preaching. And you can bet the full-counsel of God is not being represented. Just the stuff that is deemed relevant by the pastor.
The adults are probably getting a heavy dose of anti-intellectualism, obedience-driven messages based on “doing-better” without much being taught about who God is and what our call as Christians is. The church will likely be very seeker-sensitive and spend a lot of time and money on esthetics. There may be a large focus on numbers and growing bigger and bigger. Pragmatism will run rampant and there will likely be less focus on shepherding the flock or equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (evangelism).
And most severely, the gospel is usually assumed more than taught.
You see, no church promotes itself by saying things like “We have a low view of the Bible” or ” Our main goal is to become a mega-church” Or “We don’t think Scripture is useful for our Children’s growth“. In fact most church’s will say the opposite. But we all know that talk is cheap or as the ever-charming South would say, the proof is in the puddin’. Just because a man gets on stage and makes grandiose proclamations about the importance of Scripture, the truth is proven in how he handles it when he preach’s and how he believes it should be used with children and every other area of ministry.
Make sure to peer behind the aesthetics of children’s ministry. Take an interest in what is being taught and don’t let visual appearance fool you. Shallow ministries tend to hide behind a veneer of pretty. I truly believe that if you want to get an idea of how a church views Scripture, look at how they teach it to the little ones.
Most importantly we should always be adamant in teaching the Scriptures to children because the Bible tells us to!
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. ~ 2 Timothy 3:14-15
You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. ~ 6:7
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. ~ Matthew 19:13-15
So church, I implore you to rise up and teach the next generation about the power of the Word, the truth about our call and the joy that comes from truly knowing the risen Saviour!