Series: Children's ministry in our churches
An initial exploration into our aims and desires.
What would you like from your children’s ministry?
Have you asked yourself that question? It is my desire that as we read this series we step back and ponder on this question. I will then provide some broad principles that will hopefully get us going in the right direction and so do things in a more fruitful way.
What do we want from our churches children's ministry?
Normally, most churches know that it is good to have a children’s ministry. Often churches want to improve their children's ministries but not always because we want something that will help the children grow in their faith. Often the desire for a better children’s ministry is driven by a fear that if we don’t have a ‘good one’ we won’t attract new families (or keep the ones we have). It is often spoken about as a key factor for church growth.
A few years ago at a (UK) church planting conferences the main speaker said that for a church to grow, it was more important to employ a children’s worker before an assistant minister. He explained this as follows – a good children’s ministry attracts families. Families (middle class ones) bring money to the church. And with that money you could:
Employ an assistant pastor
Start new ministries and then hopefully;
According to his experience, if you were to start the other way round, it would take longer to have the money to employ more people and plant churches.
This thinking is rarely expressed out loud by pastors and their churches. But if you look at the way things are done in the majority of churches, you will see that attracting families is one of the main aims. Of course this is not necessarily a bad desire but if it is the driving force to get people into our churches, it may avoid a deep reflection, prayer and discussion about what we should be aiming for in our children's ministries.
Thus inevitable it will produce children's ministries that are fun, and entertaining. Perhaps talk about the cross and God’s promises but not much more. This will keep everyone happy… because most parents want their children to enjoy church and the keener parents will be happy if their children know they are sinners and that Jesus died to save them. But is this what is best for the development of a generation of believers who will wholeheartedly love and want to serve the Lord?
What is our aim?
Of course the obvious answer is: that they become Christians! But what do we really want from our children’s ministries? If we have not thought of this in depth, all we will have is a superficial ministry that ends up with children who only know a few bible stories that show that God keep his promises. Kids who are aware they are sinners, know that God is angry at them, but that luckily Jesus died to save them. Save them for something in a very distant future which they cannot imagine because they don’t really understand what it means to live let alone die.
If we only touch the surface of what it means to belong to Jesus, we won’t
develop children who truly like, know and really love God
help children see God beyond a superficial level (hence all the truths we teach about God and the applications for our lives are the same week by week!)
develop inquisitive minds who know how to discover truths about God for themselves, think for themselves and work out for themselves who God is and why the ‘truth’ about him is good for them and the world. Whilst process what living with God means for them day to day in their lives.
I could go on and on.
But what we will do is;
make God small, boring, limited and predictable
make the children bored of him and think that the only good thing about being a believer is being rescued from hell.
Not involve God in their day to day living
Probably reach a point in their lives when they realise that what they believe is only something they have been told about (their parents faith) or at best look into the validity of Christianity. However most commonly they will either walk away from it or live their lives as nominal, non-engaged believers thinking that they should continue in their faith just in case hell is real.
We will continue to explore our aims and the role of parents in the next instalment of this series.